New GOP Message on Surging COVID: It’s Juan’s Fault!

TALLAHASSEE, FL - AUGUST 11: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a collegiate athletics roundtable about fall sports at the Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility on the campus of Florida State University on August 11, 2020 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ron DeSantis
TALLAHASSEE, FL - AUGUST 11: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a collegiate athletics roundtable about fall sports at the Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility on the campus of Florida State University on... TALLAHASSEE, FL - AUGUST 11: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a collegiate athletics roundtable about fall sports at the Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility on the campus of Florida State University on August 11, 2020 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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August 5, 2021 10:55 a.m.

As Delta COVID surges cases across the country and fills hospitals in low-vaccine Red States, Republicans have been test-driving a range of messages to maneuver out of accountability for their reckless policies on vaccines. They’ve tried a belated effort to push vaccines, deny they were ever against them and then sidled back to opposing various kinds of vaccine mandates. But over the last couple days they’ve started pushing a new message: the problem is undocumented immigrants “pouring” over the US-Mexico border. Embattled Florida Governor Ron DeSantis put it this way (emphasis added) in a fundraising email sent out yesterday: “Joe Biden has the nerve to tell me to get out of the way on COVID while he lets COVID-infected migrants pour over our southern border by the hundreds of thousands. No elected official is doing more to enable the transmission of COVID in America than Joe Biden with his open borders policies.”

He used a slightly modified version of his new message in a press conference yesterday in Florida.

And he’s not the only one. Ted Cruz was pushing the new message as well, “the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris … a super spreader event because their open border” is flooding Texas and the rest of the country with COVID.

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And then there’s the lightly vaccinated state of Iowa.

Reacting to rising cases counts in the state, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) Tuesday pointed the finger of blame at immigrants entering the country over the US-Mexico border.”Part of the problem is the southern border is open and we’ve got 88 countries that are coming across the border and they don’t have vaccines so none of them are vaccinated and they’re getting dispersed throughout the country,” Reynolds said at a Tuesday news conference. Her spokesperson circulated a Fox News article which claimed that 135 immigrant detainees in Texas had tested positive for COVID.

The rush of comments, all emerging within 24 to 36 hours of each other, have all the hallmarks of a coordinated messaging push trying to shift the public conversation away from increasing calls for schools, hospitals and big companies to mandates vaccination for their employees. Most also push an unverified claim from the city of McAllen, Texas that 1500 COVID-positive undocumented immigrants were released into the community over the previous seven days – a story that’s made the rounds of the Fox-o-sphere and the rest of the Murdoch empire. The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal have both published editorials in the last 48 hours pointing to undocumented immigrants as the source of soaring COVID rates. Last week, according to a Facebook post flagged by The New York Post, someone flagged down a police office in La Joya, Texas to complain about what they identified as a “family of immigrants” at a local Whataburger “coughing and sneezing without covering their mouth and not wearing face masks.”

Republicans aren’t the only ones making the connection between COVID and border control. The Biden administration has used the on-going public health emergency to expedite removal of unauthorized border entrants and has just announced possible plans to require all people entering the US to be vaccinated. But the Republican push, clearly coordinated as much as their earlier vaccine switcheroo, is altogether different. Republicans have spent the last seven months pushing vaccine resistance and anti-mandate hysteria in the hopes that an anti-vax backlash would supercharge their already happy midterm election prospects. What they didn’t figure on was the Delta variant and the impact of their own policies showing up so visibly, especially in their own states. The absurd claim that largely Hispanic immigrants at the border are driving the country’s spiking COVID numbers is just their latest effort to dodge accountability for their own actions.

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