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On Press Call, Experts Respond to Trump Administration’s Strategy of Using Bigotry and Xenophobia to Deflect from Its Mishandling of COVID-19 Pandemic

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A recording of the call is available here

As the Trump administration continues to mishandle the outbreak of COVID-19 and use nativism to distract from its failures, a panel of experts and advocates gathered earlier today on a press call to talk about how the struggle to protect public health requires an inclusive strategy, not one based on “us vs them” xenophobic nationalism.  

Rep. Veronica Escobar (TX-16) said,

In a time where we need someone with compassion and leadership, President Trump is using his platform to divide us once again. Trump cannot resist the race-baiting, whether calling coronavirus the “Chinese virus” or as we saw yesterday on emphasis for closing borders. This provides fuel for people with hate in their hearts and people who are xenophobic and racist. We must call on the president to stop dividing us and stop using words that fuel hatred and violence. We must protect the vulnerable in our communities especially those that are undocumented and incarcerated. This is primarily a healthcare crisis and every single person needs to receive the benefit of testing, care, and vaccines when they’re available. It’s in our own best interest to cover everyone’s care. This is a monumental economic crisis, and no one should be left out.

Elie Mystal, Correspondent at The Nation, said,

We know what his game is and we know that he’s racist, this is an authoritarian move that’s developed throughout history. We shouldn’t geographically mark this disease, we should use the scientific name, and he’s not using COVID-19 because he wants to engender xenophobia and hate. Words have power and this kind of rhetoric inspires people to violence. There are stories of people of Asian descent being targeted, beat up, and socially ostracized. Everybody talks about how Trump is not a normal president subject to normal political rules, and yet he’s being covered like a normal president. His lying is endangering people’s lives.

Dr. Michele Heisler, Medical Director, Physicians for Human Rights, and professor of internal medicine and public health, University of Michigan, said,

There is no scientific or medical evidence that a ban on asylum seekers would improve public health. Social distancing and meticulous hygiene is not possible in a crowded encampment along the southern border or in an ICE detention facility. By jeopardizing the health and safety of asylum seekers and immigrants, we risk everyone’s health. We call on the U.S. government to respect the right to seek asylum and to parole detained immigrants using community-based alternatives to detention.

Tyler Moran, Executive Director of the Immigration Hub, said,

It is critical that immigrants are included in the comprehensive response to combatting Coronavirus. This isn’t about Congress or the administration doing something out of the goodness of their hearts. It is about what’s best for the country. DHS must also immediately announce a halt on ICE enforcement, release detainees under alternatives to detention, pause ICE check-ins and stop all immigration court hearings. As the country is making drastic changes, DHS needs to do the same. Ensuring that immigrants are part of a comprehensive solution against this outbreak isn’t just a necessity, but a public health requirement.

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, said,

This is a public health crisis and the only way to protect ourselves is by working together. Unsurprisingly, Trump and his allies have exploited racism and xenophobia to deflect from their own tragic and lethal incompetence. Trump’s deployment of divisiveness is counterproductive. This disease does not discriminate between rich and poor, black and white, or between red and blue states, but the administration does. This divisiveness undermines the all-for-one, one-for-all approach that is our only way to the other side of this pandemic. Instead of Trump’s ‘us vs them’ go-to tactic, we need a strategy based on who we are at our best — a multiracial, multiethnic democracy that’s as good as our ideals.