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Don’t Believe the Hype: Right-Wing Apocalyptical Fearmongering Around the end of Title 42 is as Predictable as it is Disingenuous

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On May 11, Title 42, the pandemic public health restriction spearheaded bendy Stephen Miller will be lifted. In reality, the policy, which never had an actual public health justification, masqueraded as another terrible immigration policy from the Trump administration for the Biden administration to resolve. 

As a result of the significant bottleneck Title 42 created, there will undoubtedly be an increase in the number of migrants seeking asylum that will follow. But despite the rhetoric coming from the right-wing, the sky is not falling. Nor does returning to the asylum process of 2019 mean we will have “open borders.” While there are very real and undeniable challenges presented by forced global migration, it is critical to sort facts and reality from the partisan political narratives that seek to fearmonger about non-white migration for selfish power and profit.

Right-wing media outlets, like Fox, Breitbart, and Newsmax, are part of a well-oiled machine that drive eyeballs and clicks to sensationalized and largely out-of-context images, headlines, and video clips about the border. The end of Title 42 and an increased number of people seeking the legal process of making an asylum claim will have Fox’s Bill Melugin (named by Media Matters as the outlet’s top anti-migrant reporter) and Griff Jenkins perched with their cameras ready as they camp out along the border, waiting to capture the b-roll to accompany the apocalyptic coverage. 

Lending legitimacy and amplification to disinformation narratives about Title 42 and migrants seeking asylum along the border, Republicans provide quotes and occupy the guest chair to spout anti-immigrant campaign slogans. Offering soundbites in lieu of a workable policy agenda, Republicans thrive off a broken system believing (with scant evidence) that it’s good politics for them. 

While this may be good for these companies’ bottom line, for Republican campaign coffers (if not for their battleground prospects), and for criminal cartels that use GOP messaging to pad their pockets, the dehumanizing rhetoric and disinformation undercuts the process of passing much-needed reforms and threatens public safety by putting a target on the backs of our neighbors because of the color of their skin or the accent they speak with. 

Don’t fall for the nativist narratives. Here are five false messages the right-wing will peddle around Title 42 in the coming weeks: 

    • Open Borders: CBP officials have testified under oath that nothing has changed since Biden took office and the border is NOT open. Most of those crossing the border are seeking asylum, which is legal. And open border disinformation has aided and abetted cartels. The ending of Title 42 does not change this fact. As Title 42 is lifted, the Biden administration has said it will expand the use of Title 8 expulsions – a much broader immigration statute that comes with punishment mechanisms. Additionally, the administration reached a deal with Mexico to increase deportations of non-Mexican nationals to the neighboring state. Nevertheless, we will hear a ubiquitous lie that the borders are open, continuing a well-established pattern
    • Republicans have a plan to “secure the border”: After well over a dozen congressional hearings, the Republican House majority introduced H.R. 2 as their so-called plan to secure the border with the hopes of voting on the legislation on May 11, the day Title 42 is scheduled to end. Unfortunately, their Republican-only proposal is devoid of workable solutions. Instead, it’s an extreme anti-immigrant messaging bill that dresses up campaign slogans, like building a wall, as legislation. There is no clearer example that Republicans’ concerns around the ending of Title 42 is anything more than political posturing and fundraising tactics than the unserious proposal they have put forward with H.R 2.
    • It’s an “invasion”: Far too many right-wing personalities with large megaphones will describe the end of Title 42 in terms of a literal invasion. A white nationalist conspiracy theory, the rhetoric of an invasion is extremely dangerous. It is directly linked to multiple deadly domestic terrorist attacks, including in El Paso, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo. The idea that migrants constitute a literal invasion on par with the Russian invasion of Ukraine is absurd on its face, however, it’s important to remember that this rhetoric is not mere hyperbole but comes with real-world consequences. The FBI Director, Attorney General, and Secretary of Homeland Security have all testified that the threat from violent domestic extremists is a leading terrorist concern. In November 2022, and again in December 2022, DHS issued memos warning about threats to migrants and infrastructure at the southern border in response to anti-immigrant-related concerns and in particular rhetoric around the ending of Title 42. 
    • More migrants equal more fentanyl:  This perniciously false association will most assuredly be lobbed as the number of migrants seeking asylum increases. However, it’s established that over 90% of fentanyl is trafficked into the U.S. by citizens who come through ports of entry. Fentanyl is indeed a very urgent and serious issue, but it is not an immigration issue, and it most assuredly does have a correlation with lifting a restriction on migrants seeking asylum. 
    • Out-of-context images and videos contribute to the GOP’s media and fundraising scam: While pictures of chaos and crisis make for good TV and fundraising pitches, they do not tell the story of immigrants or asylum seekers. This B-roll often removes important context. In an example from earlier this year, a widely shared video by Fox’s Bill Melugin depicted migrants allegedly rushing the border. But his video stripped the scene of the fact that desperate migrants —some of whom had been waiting for months for an opportunity to make an asylum claim —were headed to a point of entry after hearing a rumor. Migrants were quickly and peacefully dispersed without anyone depicted in the video entering the country or being able to present their asylum claim. Without this critical information, some Republicans talked about it as visual evidence of an “invasion.” And with even less context, this clip appears in two separate political ads. This pipeline of out-of-context videos to provide B-roll for anti-immigrant demagoguery will continue to full coverage and fundraising pitches.   

We are already watching this play out in real-time. On Sunday, Fox’s Bill Melugin tweeted out drone footage of migrants patiently waiting in line for a chance to make an asylum request. The next day Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI) and Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) retweeted the Melugin video echoing the white nationalist “invasion” rhetoric. This comes just a day after what appears to be a hate-fueled attack that left eight dead in Brownsville, with the attacker reportedly shouting about an “invasion” before the attack. 

The truth is that our immigration system desperately needs an update. The world has changed a lot since the 1980s, but our immigration laws haven’t been updated since then. They are broken and stuck in the past. While the Biden administration has engaged with a far from perfect set of patches, and he can and should do more, ultimately, a reboot of the system takes Congress. Unfortunately, over the last decade, Republicans have scuttled repeated reform efforts. Even as  a majority of Americans support protecting those fleeing violence and human rights abuses, and poll after poll reveals the enduring majority support for a pathway to legalization, the right-wing has shown they are more interested in a chaotic system they can demagogue for power and profit than providing solutions. Case in point is the Republican-only H.R. 2, which provides no workable solutions, just empty political slogans dressed up as legislation as their answer to the ending of Title 42 and the need for immigration and border reform.