tags: Press Releases

Three Key Immigration Takeaways from First GOP Debate

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Vanessa Cárdenas: “Last night all we heard was disinformation, extremism, and wanton cruelty, but nothing about real policy to address immigration challenges.”

Washington, DC – Below are three key takeaways from last night’s Republican presidential debate through the lens of immigration and GOP extremism.

  1. Large-Scale Platforming of Dangerous “Invasion” Conspiracy: Describing the border as under an “invasion” is a dangerous and false white nationalist conspiracy theory that echoes the writings of multiple deadly domestic terrorists. Last night, Fox News moderator Bret Baier framed a border question through the “invasion” framing – adding another example of a problematic trend at Fox. Research compiled by Media Matters for America found that since the Buffalo attack by a white nationalist in May 2022, there have been over 170 instances of migrants falsely being described as an “invasion” in the Fox News ecosystem. On the debate stage, Vivek Ramaswamy amplified the “invasion” conspiracy theory as well, prompting broadcaster Mehdi Hasan to note, “Ramaswamy uses what was once only a neo-Nazi talking point, referring to immigration at the southern border as an ‘invasion.’” Hasan went on to add: “Nothing worse than brown folks, kids of immigrants, mainstreaming far-right language on immigration.”
  2. Strong Pushback to GOP Lies Blaming Migrants for Fentanyl Crisis: Every candidate on the debate stage exemplified another problematic trend. GOP candidates are falsely equating the fentanyl crisis as an immigration issue and embracing dangerous ideas like Ron DeSantis’s “day one” pledge to invade Mexico with Special Forces. Republicans beating the war drums with Mexico has nothing substantively to do with addressing either fentanyl or the cartels, and would exacerbate both problems, and everything to do with cynical base politics. Thankfully, many observers across media platforms are calling out the scapegoating and lies: Chris Hayes of MSNBC stated, “The fentanyl is coming through the ports of entry and airports, not that anyone cares about the truth here.” Both MomsRising and SEIU tweeted responses to the GOP’s false fentanyl claims. See more details, statistics, and graphics debunking the false scapegoating of migrants for the fentanyl crisis from American Immigration Council’s Aaron Reichlin-Melnick here and this thread from CATO’s David Bier here and from America’s Voice guide to debunking the fentanyl lies here.
  3. Republicans’ Long Descent on Immigration Continues: Immigration was an issue that used to divide Republicans, but the GOP’s long descent over the past decade into a full embrace of nativism and dangerous conspiracies has continued means that most Republicans are now united in their extremism. As Rep. Joaquin Castro assessed, “Republicans have gone from Self Deportation to Build A Wall to Invade Mexico in just over a decade.” And read Brynn Tannehill in The New Republic, noting in part, “Republican candidates for the party’s 2024 nomination have learned that no one wants to hear about boring stuff where there might be room for thought or compromise: They want to hear how the candidates will brutalize the enemies of the herrenvolk. Now they’re trying to outdo one another in a game of competitive outbidding, where each seeks a more extreme position to label the other as weak on drugs and border security.”

According to Vanessa Cárdenas, America’s Voice Executive Director:

“Last night all we heard was disinformation, extremism, and wanton cruelty, but nothing about real policies to address immigration challenges. There was a disturbing consensus on display on the GOP debate stage last night on immigration and border issues, encapsulating Republicans’ ongoing descent into extremism that was once limited to the fringes of the nativist and white nationalist movements. None of their plans or policies would move us closer to real solutions for 21st-century migration or deliver the long overdue legislative fix for our broken immigration system needs but that Republicans continue to block. Instead, it’s a depressing example of how Republicans have weaponized these issues as part of their ongoing assault on our inclusive democracy.”

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