On February 23, an all-Republican delegation of the House Judiciary Committee held a field hearing in Yuma, Arizona, the fourth hearing in four weeks ostensibly about the border. And in all four hearings, they have amplified white nationalist conspiracy theories and failed to offer a substantive policy discussion on needed immigration reforms.
The Yuma field hearing was substantively forgettable as the Republicans on the committee performed the same nativist song and dance as their previous hearings. The partisan anti-immigrant theater would be entirely worth ignoring except for the fact that Republicans are developing a disturbing pattern of using their congressional majority to provide a platform for racist ideas that repeatedly inspired mass violence and domestic terrorism.
At the hearing, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) made implicit references to the white nationalist conspiracy great replacement theory. Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) was animated in his defense of the dangerous lie that migrants constitute a literal “invasion.”
While Rep. Gaetz (R-FL) & Rep. McClintock (R-CA) made implicit references to the white nationalist conspiracy theory, Rep. Nehls (R-TX) was animated in his defense of the racist fiction that migrants constitute a literal "invasion" pic.twitter.com/WN57k6iqUQ
— America's Voice (@AmericasVoice) February 24, 2023
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?”
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. Now, GOP members are amplifying this rhetoric in multiple congressional hearings and inviting multiple witnesses who have also peddled white nationalist conspiracy theories.
In a not-so-subtle nod to the old tired bigoted myth that non-white immigration presents a threat to superior “culture,” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC), warned to the committee that hearing about the so-called “Bidin Border Crisis,” “is about how we maintain and protect a culture that has been the most successful in the world, that is what is at stake.”
Republicans have also developed a pattern of providing a platform for hate, conspiracies, and white nationalism with a choice of committee hearing witnesses.
Republicans were recently confronted with the fact that some of their members were using the hearings to amplify the great replacement theory by Rep. Jamie Raskin in a House Oversight hearing, but Chairman Rep. James Comer (R-KY) pointedly changed the subject and refused to denounce the deadly conspiracy theory.
While Democrats did not attend the Yuma hearing because they said Republicans did not coordinate the field hearing with them, they did call out the partisan political theater for the vapid show that it was. In a joint letter from the Democrats on Judiciary, Rep. Pramila Jayapal and Rep. Jerry Nadler wrote: “Instead of focusing on real solutions to a complicated problem, Judiciary Republicans will once again not hear from any federal government witnesses at their hearing, further cementing this hearing as a brazen act of political grandstanding.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Raúl Grijalva represents part of Yuma and runs along a vast swath of the U.S./Mexico border also criticized the Republican hearing saying, “They continue to demonize the border.” He continued: “They continue to slander the borderlands and in the process make it almost impossible to try to find middle ground because there’s no give.”
But as CNN recently noted, Republicans have “struggled to pass a messaging bill that’s dead on arrival,” around their extremist positions on immigration and the border. So in light of a complete inability to govern, nativist Republicans are turning to a seemingly endless dangerous political theater that pushes white nationalist conspiracies and other pernicious, false nativist narratives.