Florida’s DeSantis Continues to Embarrass With COVID Denial and Anti-Immigrant Policies (OPINION)

Jul 6, 2020
11:37 AM

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at an emergency management warehouse alongside props of testing kits about the spread of the corona virus Friday March 13, 2020 in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

MIAMI — Florida is once again a national embarrassment as it becomes the new epicenter of COVID-19 infections.

As a Floridian, I feel torn anytime our state gets made fun of, as yet another cliche Florida man meme makes it’s way to virality on Twitter. On one hand, it’s not our fault our statewide political leadership is so incompetent and mediocre. On the other hand though, a majority of Floridians did vote for them, although a good amount of voter suppression and other shenanigans factor in continued Republican control of the state.

The handling of what I guess can be called a response to coronavirus is a new low though.

As on Monday July 6, we now have over 200,000 cases in the state and over 3,731 people have lost their lives. In South Florida, where cases are most concentrated, hospitals are cutting back on elective surgeries as three of Southwest Florida’s nine acute-care hospitals have no available intensive-care unit beds for adults. As this is happening, Miami-Dade county is going back and forth on whether to allow lap dances at strip clubs.

This past week, Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 664: Verification of Employment Eligibility, or E-Verify, into law. This bill basically pushes businesses in the state of Florida to use the program to discriminate against immigrants.

If you think a deadly pandemic is a bad time to be attacking immigrants, you probably won’t be happy to learn that as Republicans in Tallahassee were prioritizing passage of this racist bill, Florida was suffering from its first two coronavirus deaths and anxieties about a spreading pandemic were climbing.

In fact, immigrant rights organizations were warning at the time that this would intimidate undocumented immigrants in the state and cause them to avoid contact with any government institution due to fear of being detained and deported.

Unfortunately, this is par for the course for DeSantis. Since assuming office, he has done Trump’s dirty work in Florida by pushing his deportation agenda. In the previous legislative session, he had already passed a show me your papers bill that enhanced cooperation between immigration enforcement and local police. Now he continues to throw red meat to Trump’s racist and anti-immigrant voting base. Instead of focusing on the thousands of Floridians who are currently sick or struggling with unpaid unemployment claims, DeSantis is instead playing political games by making life harder for immigrants.

Every week, the website to file unemployment claims goes down. Every week, we have thousands of new cases of COVID-19 in the state. Every week, Floridians get to watch our governor do press conferences where he is clearly improvising, falsifying data, and blaming others for his failures.

He refuses to take any steps to mitigate the spread by closing down non-essential businesses, a tactic that has helped bring the virus under control in other states.

“We’re not going back, closing things,” DeSantis said. “I don’t think that that’s really what’s driving it. People going to a business is not what’s driving it. I think when you see the younger folks—I think a lot of it is more just social interactions, so that’s natural.”

DeSantis won’t even commit to encouraging people to stay home or even wear a mask. Instead, Florida Republicans would rather bury their hands in the sand and pretend like nothing is wrong in an attempt to force an economic restart in the middle of a pandemic that is overwhelming the healthcare system in South Florida. It’s truly bizarre and terrifying to watch.

In the midst of it all, DeSantis and his acolytes still find the time to push policies like E-Verify that harm vulnerable populations. It’s cruel and completely unnecessary. November, and our chance to repudiate these hateful Republican politicians at the ballot box, can not come fast enough.


Thomas Kennedy is a communications fellow for Community Change Action. He was a member of the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign and tweets from @Tomaskenn.