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After Failing to Act, DeSantis Shamefully and Dishonestly Scapegoats Migrant Farmworkers for Rising COVID-19 Cases

Florida failed to protect lives from virus; now, the governor has turned to racist and xenophobic attacks against essential workers

Miami, Fla. – The Migrant Service Providers, a coalition of over 40 organizations across South Florida, released the following statement in response to Governor DeSantis’s inaccurate and racist scapegoating of migrant farmworkers for the recent increase in COVID-19 cases. Last week, the governor, without evidence, blamed “overwhelmingly Hispanic” farmworkers and day laborers as the leading source of new cases in the state. 

Arturo Lopez, a committee member of the Migrant Service Providers, said:

“Blaming farmworkers and “Hispanics” is a racist and xenophobic ploy that Floridians should not fall for. Instead of deflecting blame from his own office’s failures, the governor should provide more testing and adequate resources to the communities Florida has left behind.

“Farmworkers should not be used as scapegoats for Florida’s failure to contain the spread of the virus. Farmworkers are essential workers who we’ve relied on to keep food on our plates throughout the pandemic. They’ve sacrificed more than anyone; yet the governor, in his words and inaction, has treated migrant farmworker communities with a callous disregard for their safety and wellbeing.”

Victoria Mesa-Estrada, another committee member, added:

“The state of Florida has denied farmworker communities access to critical testing and even denied limited-English proficient individuals with equal access to federal resources, in violation of the Civil Rights Act. 

“Florida must invest in its farmworker communities – not scapegoat them when it’s politically expedient to do so. Lives are at stake, and it’s time our governor acted like it.”

To address these issues, the committee proposed that the governor, the commissioner and other elected officials reinstate the Governor’s Advisory Council on Farmworker Affairs. In 1987, Governor Bob Graham had recognized that growers and farmworkers were one of the same and created the Council to expediently address problems in the industry. The Council was comprised of growers, farmworker organizations, farmworker representatives, and elected officials – an arrangement the committee says would be valuable to have now amid the pandemic. 

The coalition of organizations also pointed out that reports of higher rates of infection among farmworkers would have come to their attention. And given the large agriculture business in the state, farmworkers should be receiving much greater attention and more public health resources. Ironically, Governor DeSantis’s attacks come at a time when most fields are empty, as harvests outside of the citrus industry ended in late April.