Nationalism as a Threat to Public Health: How the United States Government has Manipulated the COVID-19 Pandemic to Further Inhumane Treatment of Migrants

Written by Cameryn Peknik

With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus across the United States, there was little shock when the US government announced that airports would be closed, and travel bans would soon take effect. But this was not true for everyone. Between March and June of 2020, the Trump administration oversaw over 200 flights carrying migrants from the US to other countries — and President Joe Biden has allowed these flights to continue throughout 2021. 

Haitian migrants now make up a majority of the individuals at the US border. The country had already been facing severe economic and political difficulties and a lack of resources throughout the pandemic. Haiti also endured the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on top of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that left cities in ruins and over 300 people dead. The United States’ response? An adaptation to Title 42, issued by the Trump administration, allowing customs officers to suspend entry to individuals who had been in “Coronavirus Impacted Areas” and who would be “introduced into a congregate setting.” The same day it was issued, Border Patrol began removing individuals arriving at the US-Mexico border, and the new adaptations allow Border Patrol to do so before giving these individuals the opportunity to seek asylum. This CDC order does not apply to U.S. citizens or military personnel, despite the potential of these individuals to have traveled to a “Coronavirus Impacted Area,” but makes specific mention of the allowance of individuals into the United States on the basis of “humanitarian interests”. Last week, Haitain migrants were seen being chased by border agents with whip-like cords.

These individuals are being forced, by the U.S. government, to return to a country in ruins.  The United States’ decision to use COVID-19 as the justification for immediate expulsion of migrants, claiming that their entry would put the health of U.S. citizens at risk, highlights an even greater concern: the willingness of government to manipulate health crises, and the healthcare system as a whole, in order to preserve the alarming concept of American nationalism. There were many other ways the United States could have approached preserving the health of its citizens if that was truly a concern, the most notable of which would have been placing an emphasis on science and allowing leading figures in healthcare, not politics, to direct health protocols. But the government’s failure to do so demonstrates that the desire is not for the preservation of the health of the nation, but rather for lawful exclusion and mistreatment of migrants in a political system engrained with systemic racism. With Title 42 being so swiftly adapted and exercised on the pretense of the coronavirus pandemic, there seems to be little stopping the government from expanding its influence over the healthcare system.

Edited by: Sophia Scott

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