Before committing the deadliest antisemitic attack in the nation’s history, the domestic terrorist who carried out the attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh claimed his targets were those who “bring invaders.” A little less than a year later, another domestic terrorist murdered 23 people in an El Paso Walmart claiming to be fighting the “Hispanic invasion.” In May of last year, another domestic terrorist warned of an alleged “invasion” ten times in his racist screed before he murdered ten African-Americans at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
In the shadow of this horrific violence, Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN), has adopted the rhetoric of these racist mass murders, last week introducing the “Stop the Invasion Act.” This language of invasion refers to the white nationalist great replacement conspiracy theory. But the absurd and bigoted “invasion” claim asserts that asylum seekers and migrants seeking an opportunity at the American Dream constitute a literal invasion on par with the real invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
There is a direct link between the rhetoric of “invasion” and political violence. Dr. Heidi Beirich, the co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, draws a direct connection between the rhetoric and the violence. “When migrants are described as invaders, that leads to violence,” she said. “Because how else does one stop an invasion?”
Ogles’ bill, which would allow states to singularly declare war against the so-called migrant “invasion,” allowing them to use military force to repeal migrants seeking a legal claim to asylum, has no chance of becoming law. Ogles and his allies’ goal is, therefore, only to lend the legitimacy of congressional action to a white nationalist conspiracy theory with a material connection to domestic terrorism.
15 additional Republican Members have lent their names to cosponsor this white nationalist normalization legislation, including Reps. Andy Biggs (AZ-05), Lauren Boebert (CO-03), Randy Weber (TX-14), Ralph Norman (SC-05), Paul Gosar (AZ-09), Mary Miller (IL-15), Debbie Lesko (AZ-08), Matt Rosendale (MT-02), Brian Babin (TX-36), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Jeff Duncan (SC-03), Bill Posey (FL-08), Bob Good (VA-05), Joe Wilson (SC-02), and Daniel Webster (FL-11).
Ogles also secured the support of a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group to support his legislation, the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Founded by white nationalist and eugenist John Tanton (who co-authored a book titled, The Immigrant Invasion), FAIR has not strayed from its aggressively xenophobic roots and deep connections to hate. Nevertheless, Ogles included a quote from current FAIR President, Dan Stein, in his press release announcing the introduction of his bill.
The other named supporting groups include another Tanton-founded organization, Numbers USA, and America First Policy Institute, helmed by Chad Wolf, who unlawfully acted as the Acting DHS Secretary for the last year and a half under the Trump administration.
The threat exacerbated by legitimizing a racist conspiracy theory like the so-called “invasion” is not an idle one. Beyond the horrific attacks that we have seen in recent years, 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. DHS under Wolf had also issued a draft report similarly warning of white supremacist terror threats. But during a September 2020 “State of the State” address at the agency’s headquarters, Wolf chose to instead continue peddling anti-immigrant rhetoric.
In a recent House Homeland Security Committee hearing, Rep. Dan Magaziner (D-RI) underscored this point. “One of the greatest threats to our nation’s homeland security is the rise of far-right and racially-motivated violent extremism over the past decade,” he said. “More than 145 Americans were killed in domestic extremist attacks,” Rep. Magaziner continued as he focused on real threats to the homeland. After powerfully speaking of the victims and threat of white nationalist deadly violence, Rep. Magaziner added:
“Many of these attacks have been inspired by the racist great replacement theory … this false conspiracy theory has seeped into the media with some members of Congress and FOX news personalities repeating it and inspiring domestic terrorists.”
Disturbingly, Ogles wasn’t the only Member of Congress announcing efforts to amplify the racist conspiracy theories fueling the national security threat last week. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) promoted a hard-right rally scheduled for this weekend at the state capital in Austin, Texas, where he will be a featured speaker. The rally is being organized by hard-right activist Mark Meckler, whose main demand is that the state “declare an invasion.” Roy will share the stage with Lara Logan, who was even banned from the far-right Newsmax after a QAnon, replacement theory tirade laced with antisemitism where she claimed “the open border is Satan’s way of taking control of the world”
Hopefully, the Texas rally remains peaceful, but when leaders inflame crowds with militaristic lies and point that crowd at a venerable group those leaders dehumanize, they actively invite deadly downstream consequences. When public figures use their power to amplify the white nationalist ‘invasion’ and ‘replacement’ conspiracy theory, they put a target on the backs of Americans because of the color of their skin or the accent they speak with and dare every American with a gun in their hand and hate in their heart to take their words literally.