Rep. Grace Meng warned the acting ICE director on Wednesday that the threat from a novel coronavirus is so great his agency must release any illegal immigrants who might be at risk.
Meanwhile, in her own response to the pandemic, the New York Democrat has waged a days-long media campaign to eradicate Chinese-themed terms for the coronavirus from public discourse. She has joined other liberals is decrying such words as dangerously racist.
Meng’s scolding of Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director Matt Albence came at a hearing of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security. She told Albence that his agency should let go older, pregnant or unhealthy detainees or face culpability for spreading COVID-19.
“It would be a prudent course of action for ICE to take steps now to minimize the number of detainees in your facilities,” she said.
Meng also urged Albence to call off ICE enforcement operations until the end of the 2020 Census process so immigrants would not be scared to cooperate with the government’s data collection.
However, Albence rejected Meng’s requests. He said ICE has “extensive” experience handling detainees with contagious diseases and is fully capable of doing so. Releasing or declining to arrest illegal immigrants was not an option, he added, because many ICE detainees constituted a public threat.
“That means that murderers, rapists, human traffickers, gang members alike are going to be able to walk with impunity among us,” he said. “That’s our job to get them off the street, and we do it everyday.”
Regarding the Census, Albence doubted that an ICE agent would be confused for a census taker given the distinctive uniforms and other forms of identification worn by the respective public servants.
Grace Meng warns the coronavirus isn’t just a threat to illegals
In the days leading up to the subcommittee hearing, Meng, who is of Taiwanese descent, fought on Twitter and in the press to address the coronavirus outbreak by policing the use of terms like “Chinese coronavirus” or “Wuhan coronavirus.”
After Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona announced Sunday that, like a number of his fellow Republicans, he would self-quarantine because he had come into contact with someone later diagnosed with COVID-19, Meng offered well wishes. But she went on to fault Gosar for saying “Wuhan virus” and to demand he apologize for allegedly promoting “discriminatory words and acts” and generally being “part of the problem.”
.@DrPaulGosar should apologize. While i wish him and his staff good health, his usage of an inaccurate description of #COVID19 #coronavirus only lends to further discriminatory words and acts. He should be a part of the solution not a part of the problem. https://t.co/p2v8r0eKsR
— Grace Meng (@Grace4NY) March 9, 2020
Meng was again moved to tweet her disapproval on Monday when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, shared a link to information about the coronavirus provided by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Over five days of Twitter condemnation of McCarthy, Meng said she was “embarrassed to be his colleague,” “disgusted,” and awaiting “his apology to the nation.”
— Grace Meng (@Grace4NY) March 10, 2020
Finally, on Thursday, Meng thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, for joining her Twitter calls for McCarthy to apologize.
“Bigoted statements which spread misinformation and blame Asians and the Asian American community for #coronavirus and make us all less safe,” Pelosi said. “[McCarthy] must delete this tweet and apologize immediately.”
Thank you Madame Speaker! https://t.co/gwjnrtyacp
— Grace Meng (@Grace4NY) March 12, 2020
Meng’s tweets about McCarthy were among a dozen she has issued so far this week against the supposedly racist ways Americans have referred to and responded to the coronavirus outbreak. She has implied the Trump administration’s handling of the outbreak has been xenophobic at best and directly accused the GOP of endemic racism.
— Grace Meng (@Grace4NY) March 11, 2020
You’re racist for not going to Chinese restaurants?
The congresswoman has not been alone. A number of Democrats and liberal activists and commentators have denounced Republicans and swathes of the public for allegedly being bigoted about the coronavirus.
Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat and failed 2020 presidential candidate, tweeted on Tuesday: “Calling it the ‘Chinese coronavirus’ isn’t just racist, it’s dangerous and incites discrimination against Asian Americans and Asian immigrants.”
That evening, Meng’s fellow New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez bemoaned that people are avoiding Chinese and other Asian restaurants because of racist fears of contracting the spreading coronavirus.
“Honestly, it sounds almost so silly to say, but there’s a lot of restaurants that are feeling the pain of racism,” she said in an Instagram Live video. “Where people are literally not patroning Chinese restaurants, uh, they’re not patroning Asian restaurants because of just straight up racism around the coronavirus.”
By “patroning,” Ocasio-Cortez apparently meant “patronizing.”
However, conservatives have pushed back on the liberal outrage. In a USA Today op-ed published Wednesday, deputy editorial page editor David Mastio noted “just how common and innocuous geographic names are for diseases.” He listed a number of examples, including several in the United States.
Mastio acknowledged that the WHO has official official policies on politically correct disease naming.
“That’s all fine,” he said. “And surely it’s hurtful and ignorant to shun Asian Americans, Chinese restaurants and made-in-China products because of coronavirus fears.”
However, he concluded: “Finding excuses to hurl the racism charge over such minor issues as how to refer to a new disease cheapens the currency of a serious allegation.”
But can they do their job?
Congress last week managed to pass a bipartisan $8.3 billion coronavirus response bill, which Meng advocated for. But Pelosi on Thursday struggled to advance legislation to help Americans cope with the expanding fallout from the coronavirus.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, called the House Democrats’ 124-page bill, “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” nothing more than “an ideological wish list” that would create new, burdensome programs and regulations.
McCarthy said Pelosi‘s bill was “not only completely partisan. It is unworkable.” He suggested a bipartisan plan could be worked out within 48 hours.