tags: Press Releases

Sen. Ron Johnson Embraces White Nationalist “Invasion” Conspiracy During Wisconsin Senate Debate

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Sen. Johnson: Migrants and Asylum Seekers at U.S. Southern Border Constitute “Invasion” Requiring “Defending Every Inch of U.S. Territory”

Washington, DC – During last night’s Wisconsin Senate debate against Democratic nominee Mandela Barnes, sitting Republican Senator Ron Johnson adopted the language of white nationalists in describing asylum seekers and migrants arriving at our southern border as an “invasion” requiring “defending every inch of U.S. territory.” Responding to a question about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Senator Johnson stated

“First of all, I wish President Biden were more concerned about defending every inch of U.S. territory against the invasion on our southern border.”

The martial language echoes the framing and rhetoric of white nationalists, including those domestic terrorists who have killed dozens in cities like El Paso, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh who certainly embraced the invasion frame and saw themselves as defending “every inch of U.S. territory.” Throughout the year, America’s Voice has highlighted Republicans’ growing embrace of nativist conspiracies and our recent political report identified hundreds of ads and messages that relied on “invasion” and “great replacement” themes. However, Senator Johnson’s comments on the debate stage is the first example, to our knowledge, of a U.S. Senator using such language during a debate.

Sen. Johnson’s “invasion” comment came after a series of revealing exchanges around immigration and the border that included Senator Johnson’s stated support for finishing Trump’s border wall, lies about a supposedly “open border” (border apprehensions are the opposite of an open border), fear mongering and the old “border security first” excuse for continued inaction on a path to citizenship for Dreamers and other long settled undocumented immigrants in the state.

Senator Johnson’s hostility toward citizenship for Dreamers and farm workers is at odds with the wishes and needs of Wisconsin – for example, Wisconsin dairy farmers have been calling on the U.S. Senate to pass immigration reform to address a continued dairy industry labor shortage

According to Vanessa Cárdenas, Deputy Director for America’s Voice:

Ron Johnson thinks it is perfectly appropriate to adopt the deadly language of white nationalists to discuss our border policy and to compare migrants and asylum seekers arriving at our southern border with Russia’s invasion and efforts to rain down missiles on Ukrainian civilians. Good heavens, Johnson is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee! Does he really think the devastation of Putin’s invasion and murder of innocent civilians is equivalent to people seeking freedom in America?

Unfortunately, Senator Johnson’s embrace of ‘invasion’ framing and related conspiracies fits neatly alongside his race-baiting focus on crime against his opponent Mandela Barnes and is right at home in a Republican Party that is increasingly putting away the dog whistle on race and instead picking up a bullhorn (as the vile comments from fellow sitting GOP Senator Tommy Tuberville lay bare, for example).

There are important policy conversations to be had about managing a safe, orderly, and humane border and ensuring a functional and fair asylum process as part of long overdue and needed immigration reforms. Indeed, Wisconsin farmers are crying out for workers that help keep milk flowing and Wisconsin’s famous cheese on grocery store shelves. But the vision – and vile rhetoric – espoused by Ron Johnson and Republicans moves us farther from real solutions and has been proven to stoke violence.