The House Homeland Security Committee held its first hearing supposedly about addressing the challenges at the border on February 28. But, this was actually the fifth such GOP committee hearing in as many weeks on this subject. Like the prior four hearings, the Republican majority was there for political theater, not a substantive policy discussion, with some members using the forum of a congressional hearing to amplify white nationalist conspiracy theories.
Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-OK), who has been a member of Congress for less than three months now, has used his position on the House Homeland Security Committee to describe migrants seeking asylum and safety in conspiratorial and warmongering terms. During a weekend trip to the border preceding the Tuesday hearing, Brecheen warned of an “invasion” on the southern border. Not mere dangerous hyperbole, Brecheen is pushing a misreading of the Constitution, claiming the states’ should urgently be able to use military force to expel migrants. Then, Brecheen pushed the idea in the hearing, asking one of the witnesses, David Bier the Associate Director of Immigration Studies at the Cato Institute, about describing migrants as an “invasion,” to which Birr quickly refuted Brecheen’s interpretation. Undeterred, Brecheen shared his Congressional remarks on Twitter later in the day, writing, “demonstrated today, there is an invasion at our Southern border”.
This language of invasion refers to the white nationalist great replacement conspiracy theory. A racist fiction that has been the inspiration for multiple acts of political violence and domestic terrorism over the last several years. It was chanted in the streets of Charlottesville in 2017, posted online before a man murdered 11 in Pittsburgh in 2018, shared in racist screeds before the murder in Poway and the murder of 23 in El Paso in 2019, believed by those who attacked the Capitol in 2021, and copied by the gunman who killed ten people in Buffalo in May 2022. Dr. Heidi Beirich, the co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, draws a direct connection between the rhetoric and the violence, saying, “When migrants are described as invaders, that leads to violence,” she said. “Because how else does one stop an invasion?”
It’s even worse. Brecheen is using the very committee tasked with overseeing threats to the Homeland to amplify white nationalist conspiracy theories tied to domestic terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, the FBI, 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.
This racist conspiracy is not new but was once confined to the dark corners of the internet. As Dr. Elizabeth Yates, Senior Researcher on Antisemitism at Human Rights First, notes, “10 years ago, you would have seen this rhetoric on neo-Nazi websites that you now hear from members of Congress.” As recently as 2019, then GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy removed then Rep. Steve King (R-IA) from his committee assignments because of his use of white nationalist language.
Unfortunately, Brecheen is not alone, most of the Republican members on the House Homeland Security Committee have peddled the “invasion” and “replacement” conspiracy. The Committee also continued the disturbing pattern of using committee hearings related to immigration to platform hate, conspiracy theories & white nationalism by inviting Sheriff Mark Lamb.
Sheriff Mark Lamb is a far-right activist with close ties to CSPOA, which worked closely with the Oath Keepers and has numerous ties to white supremacists. He has repeatedly described migrants seeking asylum and safety as an “invasion.” He received an award from the Claremont Institute in November 2022. Worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group FAIR and promoted the QAnon conspiracy. His “Constitutional Sheriff ” organization, Protect America Now, raised $10,000 for an effort with the far-right True the Vote, to fund a sheriffs’ surveillance of ballot drop boxes and was a top supporter of leading election deniers in the 2022 midterms. See America’s Voice full backgrounder of Mark Lamb here.
In the hearing, Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY) questioned Lamb about his troubling beliefs around questions around his election denialism, downplaying the Jan. 6 insurrectionists & association with the white nationalist gang the Proud Boys.
.@RepDanGoldman asked Lamb questions about his election denialism, downplaying of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists & association with the white nationalist gang the Proud Boys, who attended an event where Lamb floated a run for Senate. pic.twitter.com/CDbCw324jJ
— America’s Voice (@AmericasVoice) February 28, 2023
Instead of legislating or crafting solutions, the hearing was yet more political theater where Republicans performed their anti-immigrant hysterics for the camera and pushed pernicious narratives about so-called “open-border” and blamed asylum seekers for fentanyl when the facts show neither is true. Theater and stunts are all Republicans have.
Fentanyl is a serious and urgent issue that is a complex, multifaceted problem encompassing many issue areas, including trade, international crime syndicates, drug industry complicity, addiction, health care, and economic distress. But fentanyl is not an immigration issue. The perpetuation of this false equivalence between immigration and fentanyl forstalls the discussion of critical congressional action to mitigate the challenges of synthetic fentanyl and save American lives. See America’s Voice short resource guide here.
One highlight from the hearing was a powerful statement from Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-IL) who said: “We have heard a lot of fearmongering and name-calling today, and I have to say that every time our undocumented community as ‘illegals’ and ‘criminals’ to shows how my Republican colleagues chose to recognize, nor not recognize someone’s basic humanity…”
During today’s Homeland Security Committee hearing on the border and immigration, @repdeliaramirez (D-IL) made a powerful statement as she shared her story as the only member of Congress in a mixed status family.
Worth a WATCH 📺 👇 pic.twitter.com/8DFRlGYAng
— America’s Voice (@AmericasVoice) February 28, 2023