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On Anniversary of El Paso Massacre, NPR Highlights Republican Embrace of Dangerous “Invasion” Language

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As GOP Mainstreams “Fringe” Conspiracies, NPR’s Morning Edition Spotlights America’s Voice GOP Ad Tracker and Implications

Washington, DC – Three years ago today, a white supremacist gunman citing an alleged “Hispanic invasion of Texas” killed 23 people at a Wal-Mart in El Paso. Since then, Republicans have abandoned any pretense of acknowledging the dangers of mainstreaming “invasion” and “replacement” rhetoric, even after another white supremacist mass-murderer in Buffalo cited the same conspiracies this year.

In fact, as Joel Rose recaps for NPR’s “Morning Edition” today, and as news events this week remind us, the GOP has doubled down on the dangerous rhetoric, further tying themselves to vile falsehoods that used to be confined to the fringes of the internet and have a demonstrable body count. 

Witness the primary victory yesterday of Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, who has put forth some of the most overt examples that we’ve been following at the America’s Voice GOP ad tracker. Or note the personal meeting between Donald Trump and Hungarian authoritarian and racist Viktor Orban, “barely a week after the Central European leader made remarks that have been compared to Nazi rhetoric,” as Bloomberg detailed

A powerful NPR “Morning Edition” story by Joel Rose puts these developments into an important larger context. Titled, “Talk of ‘invasion’ moves from the fringe to the mainstream of GOP immigration message,” the story includes an interview with America’s Voice Deputy Director Vanessa Cardenas and is excerpted below (audio version available via online link):

“In Republican primary races this year, few issues have come up more in TV ads than immigration. And one word in particular stands out: invasion.

A few years ago, that word was confined to the fringes of the immigration debate. Most candidates would avoid it. In this election cycle, it’s moved squarely into the mainstream.

…Before these ideas might have been seen as outliers. But now, it is really troubling,” said Vanessa Cárdenas, the deputy director of America’s Voice, an immigrant advocacy group that’s been tracking political ads. It’s found dozens of ads that use the word invasion by Republicans campaigning all over the country.

“This type of rhetoric, it’s meant to agitate people for political reasons,” Cárdenas said, “because it makes people feel anger and hate.”

It’s been three years since a white gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, killing 23 people, most of them Latino. The suspect was motivated by what he called a “Hispanic invasion” of people coming to the U.S. illegally.

…The word invasion has a long history in white nationalist circles. For years, it was used widely by supporters of the “replacement theory” — the false conspiracy theory that says Jews or other elites are deliberately replacing white Americans with immigrants and people of color. Until recently, you rarely heard it from Republican officeholders or candidates.

…immigrant advocates say the invasion narrative is fundamentally misleading. Almost half of all migrants apprehended at the southern border are quickly expelled back to Mexico. Nearly all are unarmed. Many are fleeing poverty and violence and autocratic governments all over the hemisphere, and turning themselves in to the Border Patrol in hopes of getting asylum or other protections in the U.S.

“They’re mothers and children and fathers, people who are basically doing what any one of us would do if we were in their shoes,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat who represents El Paso in Congress.

What worries Escobar is that this invasion rhetoric will inspire another tragedy like the mass shooting in the El Paso Walmart — or the shooting earlier this year in Buffalo, where the man suspected of killing 10 Black people was also motivated by the replacement theory.

“I am very, very concerned for communities like mine that we will see more acts of violence committed against immigrants, against Latinos, because of this rhetoric,” Escobar said on a call with reporters last month.

Advocates say this increasingly extreme language is putting a target on the backs of immigrants — one that will still be there when the midterm elections have come and gone.”

According to Mario Carrillo, Texas-Based Campaigns Director for America’s Voice:

“Three years ago, a white supremacist gunman killed nearly two dozen people in my hometown of El Paso. My hope was that elected officials would learn their lesson and distance themselves from dangerous rhetoric. Instead of making the dangerous conspiracies and falsehoods the gunman cited permanently toxic, Republicans and right wing media have spent the years since the shooting helping to mainstream those same vile ideas. As CPAC Texas gets underway and overt racists receive fawning treatment, those of us with a different vision of America shouldn’t stand by idly and watch the GOP descend further into extremism that leads to violence.”