Meanwhile, GOP Leaders Serve Up Dangerous and Distracting Immigrant “Invasion” Rhetoric
Washington, DC – In one of three hearings this week where DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was called to testify before House Committees, Sec. Mayorkas yesterday stated, “Domestic violent extremism poses the greatest terrorism related threat to our homeland.” Deadly instances of violence in recent years perpetrated by white nationalists in locations such as El Paso Walmart and the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh show that the DHS assessment is not an abstract threat.
In the face of this reality, the Republican Party – from its leading anti-immigrant zealots to its supposedly establishment wing and leadership – is embracing an ugly and raw nativism and helping mainstream the very same conspiracy theories that began on the white nationalist fringes and showed up in the manifestos the gunmen touted in El Paso and Pittsburgh. Just look at this week for examples:
- Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) appears on the Steve Bannon show and touts “invasion”: Elise Stefanik is a member of House GOP leadership and has been busy mainstreaming the “invasion” conspiracy. Rep. Stefanik was on Steve Bannon’s show on Wednesday saying, “Well, it is an invasion, you do not have a country if you do not have secure borders… This is not just a southern border crisis – every city, every town in America is a border state, county, city, town so every district is a border district.” Last September, Rep. Stefanik’s largest regional paper, the Albany Times Union lambasted her in an editorial after her Facebook ads employed a repackaged version of the “replacement theory”- the same conspiracy that animated the torch-wielding crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. The paper wrote, “Ms. Stefanik isn’t so brazen as to use the slogans themselves; rather, she couches the hate in alarmist anti-immigrant rhetoric that’s become standard fare for the party of Donald Trump … If there’s anything that needs replacing in this country — and in the Republican party — it’s the hateful rhetoric that Ms. Stefanik and far too many of her colleagues so shamelessly spew.”
- Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) embraces invasion rhetoric on Fox News: Rep. McCaul is a former chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and considered a moderate by many. On Fox News Sunday earlier this month, Rep. McCaul stated, “Putin invaded Ukraine … We have an invasion in my home state right on the border, every day.” As James Downie wrote in a blistering Washington Post column blasting McCaul and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, “Notice that McCaul didn’t limit this comparison to traffickers or criminals trying to cross the border. No, every single person trying to cross — including the tens of thousands seeking asylum and the hundreds of thousands of families and unaccompanied children who are just seeking a better life — is, in McCaul’s framing, no different from soldiers invading a sovereign nation … That ‘invasion’ language — a favorite of Trump and white supremacists — has led to bloodshed before. In 2019, a gunman killed 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso after posting an anti-Latino manifesto in which he said the attack was a response to ‘the Hispanic invasion of Texas.’ And lest anyone doubt the partisan component of this hatred, the shooter also expressed fears that changing demographics would ‘make us a Democrat stronghold.'”
- Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on the Steve Bannon show talking about the federal government “exacerbating an invasion”: Rep. Gohmert is one of the most conservative U.S. Representatives and is running for Attorney General of Texas. He was discussing the border with Steve Bannon and was quoted in response to Bannon saying, “I’m so glad you used that term, exacerbating the invasion because Arizona is now taking the position I have been talking about for a couple months since I got in, there is more that can be done.” During questioning of Secretary Mayorkas today in the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Gohmert returned to the “invasion” theme. He was joined by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Republican House Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson (R-LA) in using invasion and replacement conspiracy theories as part of their questioning of Sec. Mayorkas.
According to Zachary Mueller, America’s Voice Political Director:
At a time when America’s homeland security and law enforcement agencies declare that domestic white supremacists pose the greatest terrorist threat to American security, the GOP has chosen to amplify the same white nationalist conspiracy theories that have inspired domestic terrorists. They have chosen to divide, distract and betray American security through a dangerous preoccupation with generating fear around immigrants and refugees. White nationalist conspiracies, like the ‘replacement theory’ and ‘invasion’ rhetoric, have been mainstreamed throughout the Republican Party right up to their congressional leadership. Instead of a party chastened after Charlottesville or January 6th, let alone El Paso and Pittsburgh, they are escalating the volume and mainstreaming of white nationalist conspiracies as we are witnessing this week. During a week that DHS offered a reminder that white nationalist domestic terrorism is our biggest threat, the GOP is fueling ugly grievance conspiracies peddled to stoke fear.
In their continued full-throated attacks and lies about migrants and asylum seekers, the GOP has again shown they refuse to work with Democrats to tackle domestic extremism or real modernization of the immigration system they purport to want to fix. It’s all politics and ugly rhetoric to feed their base a steady diet of fear and hate. And it has real consequences.