President Trump’s ‘Do as I Say Not as I Do’ frienemy delays on his COVID-19 response have impacted Florida’s health system and economy. This is how.
Although President Donald Trump has confessed a “soft spot” for his adopted state, and is an admirer of Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom he has praised publicly as a “great” governor, Florida has been severely affected, and continues to suffer, from the consequences of the Republican incumbent’s policies.
Anti Immigrant Posture Has Dangerous Consequences
President Trump has repeatedly called immigrants “murderers and rapists” and “bad hombres,” while praising U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents as “patriots [who are] moving some of these horrible people out of the country.”
But in the time of COVID-19 Trump’s anti-immigrant posture is having dangerous consequences, as ICE officials have admitted before Congress that they do not have a plan for the health of immigrants during the growing pandemic.
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According to a lawsuit filed in Miami federal court against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Attorney General, National health experts say U.S. immigration officials are housing inmates together “by the hundreds” if they have coronavirus symptoms or have been exposed to the illness.
“In these settings, hundreds, and potentially thousands of people will become infected and many will die,” said Joseph Shin, assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and past medical director for the Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights. Shin said this in a sworn statement that is part of the lawsuit filed by the University of Miami’s immigration law clinic, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a private Miami law firm, among others.
So far, at least two detainees and two security guards at Krome detention center in Homestead have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But with the virus’ rapid spread, the potential to infect thousands is a grim reminder of the current administration’s disdain for immigrants.
The Farming Industry Faces COVID-19 Crisis
Due to President Trump’s slow and inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic, which he minimized for two months, Florida’s farming industry is also feeling the impact of the outbreak both economically and in the health of its workers. Florida farmers, many of whom are immigrant guest workers from Mexico and Central America, are now facing a substantial decrease in demand for produce due to restaurants and schools closing across the state.
“Agriculture is struggling,” says Florida Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, who is working with the state to connect producers to additional markets in Florida and other states. Fried said in a statement that they are working “every single minute of every single day to … keep agriculture as the backbone of our economy.” At this time, farming is the second largest industry in the state.
But the waning economy, inadequate boardinghouses and law enforcement raids are not the only worry farmers are facing in the midst of COVID-19.
“If [coronavirus] reaches the agricultural community, it will devastate them,” said Baldemar Velasquez, founder of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, who is demanding that growers provide medical care for workers during the outbreak.
If the virus spreads among the farmers, some of whom are among the most vulnerable workers in the country, it could impact the spread of the illness among the laborers and their families. For Velasquez this is not an agricultural problem. “It’s a national problem,” he stated.
A Crashing Economy
Trump says that tax cutting and deregulatory economic policies have spurred growth and employment. Yet the budget deficit and national debt have risen.
Similarly, as the state economy crashes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, one of Trump’s most trusted allies, is planning to give approximately half-billion dollars in tax refunds to the state’s largest corporations as part of the federal tax overhaul that Congress and President Donald Trump passed in 2017, and that substantially cut federal taxes for corporations.
This refund comes at a time when commercial activity has shut down across the state due to coronavirus, and hundreds of thousands of jobless Floridians apply for state government services, straining an already troubled economy.