June 17, 2020

Luján Condemns Reported Mistreatment of Tribal Communities in COVID-19 Response

Nambé, N.M. – During a remote hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health, Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, highlighted the stark disparities in COVID-19 rates for Native Americans and condemned the mistreatment of Native communities in the response to the pandemic. Congressman Luján pointed to recent reporting by Politico that the federal government is withholding life-saving information from Tribal health authorities, and to allegations reported by New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica that an Albuquerque hospital unnecessarily separated Native mothers from their newborns. 

“Of the 9,845 COVID-19 cases in New Mexico, nearly 58 percent have been Native Americans. The Navajo Nation has more cases per capita than any state in the nation. This wasn’t inevitable though. It was caused by systematic inequities in our health care system and in our society, and – I know this may be hard for some of my colleagues to say today – the Trump administration’s failed response to the crisis,” said Luján. 

He continued: “[W]e learned that CDC is not sharing critical data with Tribal Epidemiology Centers the way they share it with state health departments. Tribes need this data to protect their communities, and they’re entitled to access it as sovereign entities. And just this last week, the state of New Mexico is investigating allegations that a private hospital racially profiled Native American mothers and separated them from their newborn infants—during their first crucial days—while awaiting COVID-19 test results. If true, this is horrific and completely unacceptable.”

Video of the hearing is available here

Congressman Luján has been pushing the Trump administration to deliver much-needed COVID-19 testing supplies to Navajo Area and Albuquerque Area Indian Health Service (IHS) hospitals. He recently spoke on the House floor about the administration’s decision to award a $3 million contract to a former Trump White House staffer who delivered substandard personal protective equipment to IHS hospitals serving Pueblo and Indian Country in New Mexico.

Press Contact

Adán Serna (202) 225-6190