Why is the governor scapegoating Latinos for the COVID-19 crisis?




Gov. Doug Ducey speaks about the latest COVID-19 data at a news conference June 25, 2020, in Phoenix. Photo by Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press | Pool photo

As an Arizona senator, I didn’t think anything else could shock me, but Gov. Doug Ducey proved me wrong in a most incredible way.

On June 23, in the midst of President Donald Trump’s visit to Arizona, news broke that during a conference call with Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force, the governor blamed the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, not on himself, not on a lack of testing or adequate state and federal resources, but in part on Mexican-Americans. Specifically, those with dual U.S. citizenship “coming across the border for better medical care,” according to a Daily Beast’s exclusive report of the meeting.

After myself and fellow Latinx legislators took understandable offense to such vile comments, the Ducey spin machine ramped up. His staffers responded that we were “politicizing” things and taking the governor’s words out of context. 

They thought it would help their cause to post the transcript of the call. It did not. 

The transcript said exactly what the Daily Beast reported. Vice President Mike Pence asked Ducey if he was seeing an uptick in cases in people under 35 and Americans who lived in Mexico but were seeking care in Arizona, to which Ducey replied, “and then it is Americans with dual citizenship that our the [sic] seeking the superior healthcare of our system in our border counties. So both of those combinations add to our numbers.” 

Who else have we heard blaming Mexicans for America’s COVID epidemic? That’s right, Trump himself. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Ducey ingratiate himself to the Commander-in-Chief by echoing his rhetoric. These comments directly endanger the lives of people like me and people who look like me. I shudder to imagine a situation where someone takes this negligent comment to heart and attacks people they presume to be Mexican-American. We’ve seen it happen before

Arizona has quickly become a national COVID-19 hotspot. Every day, we see an increase in cases, and, as of this writing, we stand at 66,458 total cases and 1,535 total deaths. On Thursday, the governor held another press conference on the pandemic. While he took a more serious tone, he failed to take more serious actions to curb the deadly spread of COVID-19 in Arizona. 

On top of that, Arizonans are struggling to access testing. We saw in a neighborhood I represent, Maryvale, stories of people waiting in their cars for up to 13 hours for a test. It cannot be ignored that there’s been a severe lack of testing opportunities, particularly in under-served and Latino communities. Maryvale is more than 75% Latino, and several ZIP codes in Maryvale have some of the highest rates of confirmed infections in Phoenix. 

In light of this, it’s all the more upsetting that the governor is using Mexican-Americans as his latest scapegoat for his failure to adequately handle the COVID-19 situation we have now. His comments are irresponsible, and Arizona’s Latinx community deserves a retraction and apology. 

That’s what responsible leaders do when they say something reckless. They acknowledge it, take accountability and correct it. If the governor truly did not intend to blame Mexican-Americans for the increase in Arizona’s COVID-19 cases, then I hope he will simply clarify his comments.

But in the meantime, I’ll let his own words speak for themselves.