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Show-Me-Your-Papers, Border Vigilantes, and Child Detention: The GOP’s Extreme Anti-Immigrant Agenda

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Republicans in Congress do have an immigration plan — but it’s not designed to address the issues of providing a safe process at the border or our immigrant neighbors. No, it’s a political agenda. And, their plan is to nationalize the anti-immigrant hostilities being leveled at local communities by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and their GOP legislatures.

Since barely taking control of one chamber of Congress, Republicans have had very little success passing anything. As we’ve documented, they’ve done a lot of photo ops and stunt hearings. But, they have finally introduced their priority immigration proposal – a child detention bill that goes even further than the agenda sought by indicted former President Donald Trump and his white nationalist aide, Stephen Miller. 

The bill harkens to some of the darkest moments of the Trump presidency, by seeking to indefinitely force children and families seeking asylum into immigration detention. The bill includes provisions from an anti-asylum bill previously introduced by Texas Representative Chip Roy, legislation so belligerent it was blocked by his fellow Republicans.

This anti-immigrant hostility is, unfortunately, the centerpiece of the Republican agenda. Republican lawmakers in Texas and Florida have been fervently pushing proposals attempting to further crackdown on their undocumented communities in a competition to see which state can be most cruel. 

In Texas, Republican state Representative Matt Schaefer has introduced a dangerous vigilante bill giving Governor Greg Abbott power to recruit anyone — including people with zero law enforcement experience whatsoever — to police the Texas-Mexico border. 

In Florida, Republican state Senator Blaise Ingoglia is the primary sponsor of a ‘show me your papers’ 2.0 law. The proposal could criminalize everyday Floridians for driving an undocumented person to work, school, or even church. ‘Show me your papers’ 2.0 is so alarming that advocates there have issued advisories warning that travel to the state could be risky.

Both the ‘show me your papers’ 2.0 and vigilante bills purport to address immigration. But like previously noted here, these cruel proposals put just about anyone non-white at risk at a time when Republicans have already fanned the flames of xenophobia. 

In Texas, Abbott has helped to fuel “invasion” rhetoric, refusing to stop even after the term was used by the white supremacist mass shooter who targeted Latinos at an El Paso Walmart in 2019. Then last year, two Texas brothers pursued a number of migrants who’d recently crossed into the U.S., shooting and killing one and seriously injuring a second. The brothers claimed they’d been hunting. But survivors said they were the ones being hunted down, when the brothers demanded they “come out” from the brush. 

Reports would later reveal that one of the brothers, Mike Sheppard, “faced allegations of racist and violent behavior toward Hispanics and Blacks” while working as a warden at an immigration prison, Texas Observer said. “It is a hate crime, pure and simple,” Texas Representative Sylvia Garcia told The Washington Post last year. 

Later that year, on New Year’s Eve, a gunman who referred to himself as the “eyes for America” threatened another migrant outside an El Paso church. Steven Mathew Driscoll, who admitted to investigators that he was in illegal possession of his firearm due to a prior felony conviction, later that night also stalked a Greyhound station, likely looking for more migrants to harass. Luckily, no one was physically harmed. 

But rather than addressing the real issues facing Texas — such as the gun violence seen in Uvalde or climate change affecting everyone across the state — Republicans’ vigilante bill only risks unleashing more bad actors. In Florida, parts of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties have been underwater due to historic flooding. But DeSantis was unofficially campaigning for the Republican nomination for president in Ohio, a callous move that drew criticism from his own party. 

“His entire focus is on the presidential race,” former GOP Representative David Jolly told Orlando Sentinel. “He’s clearly ping-ponging between every presidential special interest group he’s got to court … so flooding in Florida ain’t on that list.” But both DeSantis and Abbott have decided they do have the time to push anti-immigrant proposals. Those two also see themselves as presidential material and are in a competition for the MAGA base. 

In Congress, Republicans also want to stomp on our values and upend our history as a welcoming nation. They, too, are clamoring for approval of the nativist base. The House GOP’s cruel proposals don’t stand much of a chance in a Democratically controlled Senate and White House, though it will get some of them face time on FOX News. 

But rather than coming to the table with real policy solutions, “they are more concerned about throwing ugly red meat to the MAGA base than serious efforts to broker a way forward,” as our own Vanessa Cárdenas said. It’s all they’ve got.