Responding to The Coronavirus Requires Transparency, Not Xenophobia

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Right now people in the United States and throughout the world are facing a pandemic caused by the coronavirus. The situation is urgent and urgent responses are required. 

The world confronts a frightening and dangerous pandemic, and urgent action is needed to protect public health. But xenophobia, secrecy, and lies are not the cure.

Governments throughout the world have tried to stifle the flow of information about the coronavirus, and the Trump Administration has not been transparent about the virus and its response to it. Meetings held by the Department of Health and Human Services have been classified, something traditionally reserved only for military and intelligence matters. Trump has throughout the response to the coronavirus, failed to tell the truth and spread misinformation. He repeatedly misinformed people saying testing was going “smoothly” when clearly it was not. 

It is an abuse of the classification process to classify deliberations about a public health crisis. The American people have a right to know the extent of the threat posed by the coronavirus and what steps to take. They have a right to accurate public health information. Government officials should not be covering up information in order to downplay the extent of the threat or hide their own missteps. And now more than ever, we need strong whistleblower protections.

Some politicians have decided to use a pandemic to fan the flames of racism and xenophobia. Today, Donald Trump referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus.” Other elected officials have done the same thing. Both the World Health Organization, as well as, the head of Center for Disease Control have urged people not to call the virus this. Trump, however, has continuously tried to use the virus to further his anti-immigrant worldview. As he was flailing at conducting a real public health response to what was then a looming pandemic, Trump repeatedly praised his “strength” at closing or shutting down borders. Much like with the phrase “Chinese virus” the goal here is to paint the virus as “foreign” and to demonize and scapegoat immigrant and refugee communities.

Individuals being held in prison or detention, including immigrant detention, are at serious risk for contracting the coronavirus. We need an immediate moratorium on deportations and immigrant detention. No one should be arrested, detained, or forced to come into court for low-level criminal criminal offenses. And states and the federal government most seriously consider releasing non-violent offenders and those who pose a low risk from prison.

As more and more restrictions are put into place on our ability to gather and plans are floated to closely track our movements, Defending Rights & Dissent and our civil liberties allies are closely monitoring the situation to ensure that every action taken by our government has a justifiable public health benefit, and will not unduly injure our rights and liberty.  

During this global crisies, ordinary people have displayed tremendous solidarity with each other. Our government could learn from them.