The baby formula shortage is full-blown public health crisis. Parents are scrambling, driving for hours to find a single can of formula to feed their tiny humans. A desperate woman lost her baby this week in a police car chase after shoplifting baby items from a Louisiana Walmart. The shortage began last summer but has reached a scary new height, with one data firm estimating that 43 percent of baby formula is out-of-stock nationwide.
Instead of focusing on how the state of Texas can help ease this suffering for its citizens, Republican politicians in the Lone Star State have decided this is the moment to pit American parents against migrant parents locked up by the government. In a joint statement with the National Border Patrol Council president, Gov. Greg Abbott blamed President Biden for taking away formula from “our most vulnerable, precious Texans” at this time. “While mothers and fathers stare at empty grocery store shelves in a panic, the Biden Administration is happy to provide baby formula to illegal immigrants coming across our southern border,” the statement reads.
“Our children deserve a president who puts their needs and survival first—not one who gives critical supplies to illegal immigrants before the very people he took an oath to serve.”
Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Tx.), who represents a district on the outskirts of Houston that looks like mismatched testicles, tweeted, “Baby formula should go to Americans before illegals. This should not have to be said,” along with a link to the Washington Examiner, a conservative website.
It’s true: Texas is feeling this crisis more than most states. At the end of April, Texas was one of six states that saw more than half of its baby formula supply out of stock. Republicans know people are worried and scared, and they are more than happy to slot in “illegal immigrants coming across our southern border” as scapegoats for our country’s (and Texas’s) failure to value children’s lives and health.
Abbott and Nehls, of course, both consider themselves “pro-life;” Abbott infamously signed a bill into law last year that bans abortion at six weeks from a missed period and incentivizes citizens to spy on and sue each other to enforce it. But there’s nothing pro-life about suggesting that we should let babies in America starve if they don’t have the right legal documents.
I know these are not good-faith arguments being made to help American infants—these arguments are made to further stigmatize migrants and anyone who can be perceived as one. Our current federal policy means that we lock up children, and because of that, the federal government is responsible to feed these children.
Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fl.) tweeted a photo on Wednesday claiming to show “shelves and pallets” of baby formula and snacks at the largest immigrant processing center in the country, referred to as Ursula. In a Facebook Live session, Cammack claimed she got the photos from a “Border Patrol agent” with 30 years experience.
Some of the photos Cammack shared with the New York Post look like they have expiration dates written in permanent marker, seemingly signaling that these are a part of a regular stock pile the federal government must keep around, again, if they want to keep locking up children. If you don’t want the federal government to regularly buy baby formula, a better rule would be to stop locking up children.
While national Republicans can use this as a way to agitate their voters as they move into the midterms, Abbott’s play here is a bit different. Abbott won the Republican gubernatorial race pretty handily in March with two-thirds of the votes. However, two opponents in the 2022 primary actually managed to claw double-digit points from primary voters; something that seemed nearly impossible during Abbott’s last primary in 2018.
Abbott knows he must keep up the heat as the state party turns more toward Trumpism and authoritarianism. Migrants and immigrants of all ages are the perfect boogeymen. First, they take their jobs; now they want to take food out of babies’ mouths, while also forcing women to carry their pregnancies to term. The hypocrisy is so thick I am choking on it.