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How the Anti-immigrant Cabal Builds Its Nativist Narratives in 5 Steps

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The right-wing’s effort to build and disseminate the latest chapter in their nativist narrative is on full display this week as they execute another clearly planned maneuver to fearmonger about our undocumented neighbors. Through the establishment of seemingly innocuous non-profit organizations, collaboration with elected Republicans, and eager right-wing media platforms chasing clicks, they continue to launder hate and xenophobia into the mainstream. 

This week’s maneuver is not unique but is illustrative of an ongoing pattern as the Republican Party drives full speed down the path of extremism on immigration and border issues while they continue to make it a centerpiece of their political message. 

Here are the five steps employed by the right to construct their nativist narratives and advance the GOP’s cynical politics of racial division.

Step 1: Set up a Nativist Non-Profit Front Group

Construct a new non-profit with an innocuous-sounding name to make it appear like there is a genuine concern—bonus points if the acronym spells out a word or is similar to the name of a pro-immigration group. On Monday, the nativists launched the National Immigration Center for Enforcement (NICE, which used to be confused with the pro-immigrant New Immigrant Community Empowerment.)  These organizations often recruit staff and board members from existing hard-right nativist organizations and hate groups. NICE named former hate group staffer RJ Hauman as its president and only named employee. Hauman previously worked for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). See the pattern? FAIR is a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group that was founded by the white nationalist John Tanton, who pioneered this tactic to bring nativism from the racist fringes into the mainstream. In addition to the barebones staff, there’s an advisory board made up of former Trump officials and similar nativists propping up one of the other myriad anti-immigrant groups. For example, Joe Edlow is one of the numerous acting officials in Trump’s DHS that never were properly confirmed, has helped peddle white nationalist conspiracy theories tied to deadly domestic terrorism, and is a close associate of another anti-immigrant hate group. Another is Chris Russo, the founder and President of Texans for Strong Border, which just last week spent a quarter of a million dollars on TV ads in Texas peddling that same deadly white nationalist conspiracy theory. 

Step 2: Use Willing Right-Wing Media to Amplify the Nativist Narrative

To launch the non-profit, find a willing partner at a right-wing media outlet to write up your launch and nativist narrative as if it is a legitimate campaign with a legitimate grievance with no follow-up or hard questions. NICE secured their puff piece to launder their message from Fox on Monday with a headline that read, “Nonprofit launches to restore ICE immigration enforcement, counter left-wing ‘Abolish’ movement.” By ensuring coverage on platforms like Fox News, the right-wing narratives gain an appearance of legitimacy. This strategic move is aimed at creating the illusion that these organizations are unbiased and not affiliated with the endless shell game of nativists. Ultimately, after laundering their name through right-wing media, the goal is to dupe other press outfits to see them as worthy of coverage and comment.  

Step 3: Collaboration with Elected Republicans

To further amplify the nativist narratives, actively collaborate with elected Republican officials in a self-affirming cycle. By leveraging their positions and extensive platforms, these GOP politicians lend their credibility and visibility to the narratives being promoted. The goal is to attract a broader audience and increase followership by utilizing the influence of elected representatives. For example, Rep. Andy Biggs’ (R-AZ) official Twitter account directly sought to boost NICE’s profile. 

Step 4: Republicans Coordinate Nativist Narratives

With the involvement of Republican leaders, the right-wing non-profits effectively co-sign and validate their nativist narratives. Prominent figures like Rep. Jim Jordan utilize their official offices and pursue formal inquiries that align perfectly with the messaging of these organizations. This synchronization between elected officials and nativist non-profits strengthens the perception of a unified front of those in and out of government on the issue. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jordan sent a letter on Monday requesting a transcribed interview from ICE asserting that they were failing to do the job and insufficiently deporting people at a rate that Jordan wants. 

Step 5: Use Congressional Hearings to Legitimize the Whole Process   

House Republicans have been making committee hearings a key component of their anti-immigrant message and NICE is now part of that strategy. As part of a planned congressional hearing for Wednesday, Chairman Jordan will hold a hearing featuring NICE advisory board member Edlow. With gavel in hand, Jordan’s letter and nativist narrative about a supposed insufficient number of deportations likely to take center stage. This maneuver solidifies the nativist narratives as part of the political discourse and provides them with a veneer of legitimacy. The coordination between individuals inside and outside of the government serves the purpose of advancing an agenda centered on mainstreaming hate and peddling division. 

Missing in all of this maneuvering is a serious discussion about real solutions. But solutions are not the goal, demagoguing non-white immigrants to advance their political projects is the goal. It is crucial the media see through these tactics and critically analyze the sources and motivations behind these narratives. If not, the nativists will continue to run this play to mainstream hate and promote division.