The (COVID) Crisis at the United States–Mexico Border

The surge of migrants coming into the United States has become a game of political maneuvering from both Democrats and Republicans—Democrats blame the Trump administration for the current situation, and Republicans blame the Biden administration for being too “soft” on certain immigration matters.

I’m not even going to begin to sort out where the truth lies on the border situation as a whole. However, what is clear is that there is a crisis when it comes to COIVID at the border.

Certain elements of this crisis are the results of issues that go well beyond the United States-Mexico border. The bulk of the migrants are coming from countries in Central America—namely, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—that had extreme levels of violence and poverty to begin with, and then got slammed by two devastating hurricanes last fall.[1] To say that the situation appears to involve a lot of desperate people fleeing desperate situations might sound like an oversimplification of the current situation, but that is what this situation appears to be the result of—people, many of whom are desperate, fleeing from desperate situations.

That being said, some of the crisis could have been avoided with a more competent response from the Biden administration.

Among the “lowlights” of the administration’s handling of COVID among migrants include:

  • A March 18th article from POLITICO said that Biden administration officials admitted that there was no centralized system for tracking or responding to COVID cases among the migrants.[2]
  • A more recent NBC article said that migrant children are not tested for COVID until they transfer to a facility run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Department of Health and Human Services.[3]
  • The Biden administration outsourced testing and quarantining for many migrants. As a result of this outsourcing, it was “unclear how many have been tested for the virus, how many have tested positive and where infected people are being isolated along the border.”[4]

In reading these pieces, what became evident is that we’ve had two administrations violate the three basic principles involved in handling COVID, when it comes to migrants: testing, tracing, and isolating.

The fact that we are over one year into this pandemic, yet still do not have a competent way of dealing with COVID among migrants is, in my opinion, almost incomprehensibly careless and dangerous from a public health standpoint. Even if you were to believe the Biden administration’s argument that they inherited a mess (and based on the way Trump often handled the pandemic, I would not be the least bit surprised if Biden did inherit a mess), the administration’s response has been woefully short of following the science many on that team say they want to follow.

Because of the lack of a centralized, organized, and competent system for preventing as well as dealing with COVID among migrants, we get situations where COVID-positive migrant children are transferred from one facility to another[5] and where some COVID-positive migrants are still allowed to continue with their journey in spite of the positive test.[6] In other words, this failure by the current administration in grappling with COVID concerns at the border has resulted in preventable spread of the virus.

We can debate about the ultimate fates of the people at the border, and there will be debate about what should be the ultimate fates of people at the border; however, one area that should not be ignored during this public health crisis is the need for preventing COVID spread among migrants, and from migrants to others. Given that COVID is a global disease, the United States not doing all it can to prevent spread of the virus among migrants at the United States–Mexico border is a global headache, even if migrants are sent back to where they came from.


[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-55699540

[2] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/18/biden-administration-covid-southern-border-tracking-477073

[3] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/cbp-not-testing-migrant-children-covid-border-stations-though-many-n1262059

[4] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/18/biden-administration-covid-southern-border-tracking-477073

[5] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/cbp-not-testing-migrant-children-covid-border-stations-though-many-n1262059

[6] https://spectrumlocalnews.com/tx/san-antonio/news/2021/03/20/positive-covid-19-tests-continue-to-climb-among-migrants-in-brownsville

Coronavirus Update From New York City: April 1, 2021

Me after I got my first vaccine shot. This is not the best photo of me in the world, but in my defense, it was misty and windy, plus my glasses were fogged up.

Like with last week’s COVID Diary blog post, I have some big news to share!

The big news this week is that I have received my first COVID vaccine shot.

Literally the morning after I published my previous COVID update post, I was able to secure an appointment to receive my first shot of the Moderna vaccine. That appointment happened last Sunday.

Side effects were overall relatively minimal. My arm felt rather sore last Sunday evening and Sunday night, and felt a little sore last Monday. All that being said, the side effects of the first Moderna shot don’t seem any worse than side effects from many flu shots I’ve had over the years. That being said, I’ve heard that side effects from the second Moderna shot can sometimes leave someone feeling sick for a couple of days. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it though (a bridge I’ll get to on Sunday, April 25th, when I’m scheduled for my second vaccine shot).

Speaking of vaccines, vaccine eligibility is rapidly expanding in New York, to the point that everyone sixteen and older should be eligible for COVID vaccines by next week. Even if I weren’t obese, I’d be becoming eligible soon anyway. However, since I am obese, I was able to get the vaccine at least a couple of weeks before when I would have otherwise received it.

My younger brother is no longer in quarantine at college. He reported to me that the quarantine experience was not as bad as he had feared (I think he was expecting to be completely stuck in his room for a week). More importantly, though, he remains healthy.

The news in my neighborhood, on the other hand, is not quite as good. The test positivity rate is is up above 10% again, to 10.2%. Test positivity seem to have been see-sawing around 10% for the past few weeks–sometimes just above that mark, sometimes just below that mark.

In terms of my travel plans for Easter…I have none. I’m not fully vaccinated, and even if I were fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States is still recommending against domestic and international travel. I figure that the CDC has taken me this far without getting COVID (or at least COVID symptoms), so I’m not going to stop following their advice now.

That’s my update for this week. I hope others are well and safe, and I wish my readers a Happy Easter, or Passover, or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate!

On the Underreporting of Hate Crimes

One common saying in the policy world—a saying I know as someone who can be a policy wonk, himself—is that “bad data leads to bad policies.”

Unfortunately, one area where we have bad data is with one of the major issues of our day: hate crimes.

In my blog post last Monday, where I talked about the recent shootings at three Atlanta-area spas, I made reference to the fact that hate crimes in general are underreported. While we have some data (some of which I cited in last week’s post), the data is not where it needs to be. This is the case because data on these crimes depends on the voluntary reporting of local police departments—something that can result in the severe undercounting of hate crimes. As a result, not all police agencies even report hate this data, and even among those departments who report such data, few departments report there being any hate crimes in 2018.[1]

Because of such incomplete data with regards to hate crimes in general, we’re left with a lot of unanswered questions about hate crimes in America. Here are some of the questions I, for one, have (and in bold, I explain how the answer to a question I raise could inform policy):

  • Are there any cities, regions, or states where the levels of hate crime overall are particularly high? Learning about the communities that struggle the most with these crimes may result in considerations of how to devote additional resources, or a different set of resources, to addressing the issues they experience with hate crimes.
  • Which ethnicities, religions, or other classifications are being targeted the most and/or are experiencing a rise in being victims of hate crimes, either in certain areas or nationally? Based on limited data from some major cities,[2] it appears anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise, but it would be nice to have more knowledge of whether this is an issue nationwide or whether it’s a problem concentrated in certain areas. Such data could potentially also help inform strategies on how to deal with the types of hate crimes that a specific area experiences the most.
  • Are there any cities, regions, or states where hate crime statistics seem to be defying certain trends nationally and/or in their own state? If there are any police departments where such crimes are bucking certain trends in their state or nationally for the better, then it would be worth seeing what those police departments are doing well in preventing and/or addressing hate crimes; this could then inform how other police departments address hate crimes. If any police departments are bucking certain trends in their state or nationally for the worse, then there needs to be an examination of what’s going wrong and how (if at all) the situation could be improved.
  • Are there any regional trends in hate crimes (for example, hate crimes against a particular ethnicity being on the rise in one region, or hate crimes targeting a particular religion being down in a particular region)? There are times when numbers may vary from region to region, or state to state, depending on a variety of factors. Additionally, knowing about regional trends can potentially allow for regional solutions in dealing with certain types of hate crimes, as opposed to a national one-size-fits-all approach.

Questions such as these, as well as others I may not be thinking of at this moment, need answers, yet we don’t have them because of such limited data on hate crimes. If municipalities, and the country as a whole, are serious about anti-Asian hate, and hate in general, we need to have better data on hate crimes, which in turn can potentially inform policy on how to address these crimes. I say that because as much as bad data can result in bad policies, good data can help inform good policies.

The good news is that, as of the time of my writing this post, there is soon to be legislation introduced in United States Congress to try and address this issue.[3] That legislation, called the NO HATE Act, would, among other things, try to provide incentives for the reporting of hate crimes. This is a bill that, according to its sponsor in the United States House of Representatives, is soon to be reintroduced. While I don’t know whether the incentives for the reporting of hate crimes by municipalities in this bill are enough to result in more detailed reporting, it is promising that organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Jewish Committee—organizations that are extremely aware of the threats that issues with these crimes cause to the people they advocate for—have supported this bill in the past.[4] Of course, if a hate crimes policy expert happens to stumble upon this blog post, I would be interested in hearing an expert’s take on the legislation.

Regardless of whether the aforementioned legislation is a policy solution, what is undeniable is that there is a problem with the underreporting of hate crimes. A good way to honor the victims of COVID-related hate crimes, and hate crimes in general, would be to try and find a solution on this issue.


[1] https://www.propublica.org/article/police-dont-do-a-good-job-tracking-hate-crimes-a-new-report-calls-on-congress-to-take-action

[2] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/anti-asian-hate-crimes-increased-nearly-150-2020-mostly-n-n1260264

[3] The NO HATE Act has not yet been reintroduced in this session of Congress, so I’m linking to the text of the legislation from the previous session of Congress here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/2043/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22%5C%22no+hate+act%5C%22%22%5D%7D&r=1&s=2. I should also note that the author of the bill in the United States House of Representatives says that the bill is soon to be reintroduced: https://beyer.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=5080

[4] The NAACP had an “Action Alert” in September 2019 urging members of Congress to endorse and support the NO HATE Act: https://www.naacp.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/NO-HATE.pdf. The American Jewish Committee gave people the ability to email their members of Congress and urge them to consider supporting the legislation: https://actnow.ajc.org/LZloT1U

Coronavirus Update From New York City: March 25, 2021

I hope everyone is well, regardless of where you are.

In this post, I feel like I have more personal news to share than I’ve had in many of my posts, so buckle up…

First of all, it turns out that I am also eligible for the vaccine now, which I didn’t realize at the time I published last week’s COVID update post. Since my Body Mass Index (BMI) puts me in the “obese” category (albeit not by a ton–if I were 10 or so pounds lighter, I would not be obese based on my BMI), my obesity makes me eligible for the vaccine. It’s somewhat unfortunate my own perception of myself–the perception that I am “a little overweight” as opposed to “obese” (a perception further driven by the fact that I have actually lost a lot of weight during the pandemic)–meant that I didn’t realize I was eligible through being obese until I’ve already been eligible for a month! What’s done is done though, and I am now on the lookout for a vaccine. In the meantime, my advice to others is that even if you don’t think you are obese, check your BMI on the Adult BMI Calculator that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has anyway–you also might be eligible for a vaccine without realizing it.

The second major piece of personal news is that my younger brother is back at college. He had to go home from college like many other students last spring, and since then, he’s had some form of online learning. He is back at his school, albeit with strict COVID precautions (masking, social distancing, being tested twice a week, etc.). While the second half of the second semester of his senior year looks a lot different from what that period of life should look like, I am glad that he can see his friends in a safe manner again. The college my younger brother goes to managed to control the spread of the virus during the first half of the semester (when a different group of students were on campus), so I am hopeful that he and his friends will have a healthy second half of the second semester.

A third, and final, major piece of personal news is that I might be going back to a physical office again in early May. A lot of details still need to be ironed out though, so we’ll need to see what happens. Personally, while my initial feeling was apprehension, I am also hopeful that whenever I come back to the physical office I work at, things will work out well.

In non-personal news, the test positivity rate in my part of New York City has decreased substantially, all the way down to just over 8.5%! For a number of days, I was nervous because we weren’t getting any data reported at all on the test positivity rates, but now those numbers are getting reported and the numbers themselves are promising currently. Of course, that can quickly change with one big ill-advised party in the area, but for now, I’ll be happy with the progress on the test positivity front.

That’s it for me, for now at least. I hope others are well!

Addressing the Shootings in the Atlanta Area

In my COVID update post last Thursday, I spent the first part of the post talking about the shootings that happened in three Atlanta-area spas. However, I think it is important to dedicate a full post to the shootings, considering some of the discourse that’s existed in the shootings’ aftermath.

First of all, my heart goes out to the families of the victims. No platitudes or words can ever possibly erase the fact that Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, and Yong Ae Yue should not have died in shootings.

As of the time I published this post, the exact motive of the shooting remains unknown, but much speculation about the shooting seems to center around ethnicity (most of the people killed were women of Asian descent, four of whom were of Korean descent) and the perpetrator’s alleged sex addiction.

But, regardless of whether the motive is ethnicity-related, sex addiction-related, some combination of the two, or neither one, we need to talk about two of the big issues raised in light of the shooting: anti-Asian hate and sex addiction itself (also known as compulsive sexual behavior[1]).

With regards to anti-Asian hate, while there is still an investigation into how much that was a motive of the shooter, what cannot be denied is that anti-Asian hate crimes have been sharply on the rise in the past year. In 16 of America’s largest cities, the targeting of Asian people has increased by 150% in the past year.[2] Even if the current investigations happen to find that anti-Asian bias wasn’t a motive by the shooter, it does not take away from the fact that anti-Asian speech and violence are a problem in this country, and a problem that is exacerbated by the fact that too many in American society (including the previous President of the United States) have either scapegoated people of Asian descent for COVID or fanned the flames of scapegoating people of Asian descent.[3] Regardless of the shooter’s motive, anti-Asian bias is an issue we need to grapple with.

Speaking of anti-Asian bias, and hate crimes in general, while the statistics indicate that anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise, the reporting of hate crimes in the United States is not what it should be. The reason is that data on hate crimes depends on the voluntary submission of data from local police agencies—something that results in severe undercounting of hate crimes.[4] This is an issue that needs to be discussed more in order to truly understand the extent of anti-Asian bias, which in turn could better inform decisions on how to address said hate. The underreporting of hate crimes frankly requires its own blog post, and I plan on talking about this issue more in next week’s blog post.

As for the issue of sex addiction/compulsive sexual behavior, I am deeply concerned that this shooting will end up stigmatizing people who struggle with compulsive sexual behavior in general. This is an issue some people struggle with, but it is not an issue that necessarily results in someone becoming violent as this shooter became violent. In fact, a doctor interviewed by USA Today who’s been treating people with compulsive sexual behavior for over 30 years says that under 1% of his patients have committed any violent act.[5] In spite of that, the most famous example of someone allegedly battling this sort of issue is this mass shooter, so I am therefore concerned that the shooting could create an issue for people battling compulsive sexual behavior.

Yet, at the same time, there is a history of the notion of sex addiction being used by people, usually white men, to try and absolve themselves for their responsibility with certain actions, especially actions that are misogynistic.[6] As such, while it is completely possible that this sort of issue played a role in the shootings, we should be careful not to automatically assume that issues with compulsive sexual behavior/sex addiction were a motive, in spite of what the shooter has said about a sex addiction playing a role in his motivation for killing people.

There is so much more that could be talked about, but given that investigations are ongoing as of the time I’m publishing this post, I will wait to say too much more until the current investigations run their course. That being said, if there is more that I feel needs to be said once that happens, I will be sure to do so.


[1] Based on the literature I’ve read from both the Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes on Health, there seems to be some question about whether compulsive sexual behavior (which does exist) is clinically an addiction: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4677151/. I am not qualified to answer this question, but what I will say is that if the scientific experts at the Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes on Health both believe that some people struggle with compulsive sexual behavior, I am also inclined to believe that some people struggle with compulsive sexual behavior. Additionally, since there is some question as to whether compulsive sexual behavior is clinically an addiction, I’m going to call it “compulsive sexual behavior” as much as I can in this blog post.

[2] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/anti-asian-hate-crimes-increased-nearly-150-2020-mostly-n-n1260264

[3] I talked about this in my post a couple of weeks ago about scapegoating groups during a crisis: https://blindinjusticeblog.com/2021/03/08/scapegoating-groups-during-a-crisis-is-nothing-new/

[4] https://www.propublica.org/article/police-dont-do-a-good-job-tracking-hate-crimes-a-new-report-calls-on-congress-to-take-action

[5] https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/health-wellness/2021/03/18/atlanta-shooting-sex-addiction-what-it-can-turn-violent/4746720001/

[6] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/how-sex-addiction-has-historically-been-used-absolve-white-men-n1261623