No, People Seeking a Better Life Here Is Not an “Invasion”
By Kindler (Please check out my Substack)
We cannot decisively beat the Republicans as long as their warped portrayals of reality are allowed to stick in the public’s perceptions. And while the lies of Trumpworld, Fox and company are endless, few are as ugly, damaging or powerful as the Big Lie of “an invasion at our Southern border”. Yet too rarely does the press challenge or even examine this lie, and even some Democrats allow it to be articulated in their presence without pointing out its dishonesty and repugnance.
We need to demand better. Let’s discuss the fundamental dishonesty and destructiveness of the GOP immigration Big Lie and how we must replace it with a better understanding of the legitimate challenges we face on immigration policy, along with potential solutions to them.
I. The “Invasion” Big Lie
Trump and nearly the entire GOP are united in falsely describing the efforts of individual migrants to get to the US and nab some crappy dishwashing or strawberry-picking jobs as a sinister “invasion” organized by nefarious foreign governments to destroy the US.
On this as on everything, Trump follows the rule attributed to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, “if you repeat a lie enough times, it becomes the truth.” So Trump paints a completely false and scurrilous picture of immigration at the southern border: not that people are flooding from Latin American countries in order to try to escape crime, gangs, political instability, poverty, etc. but rather that:
“Other countries are emptying out their prisons, insane asylums and mental institutions and sending their most heinous criminals to the United States. And who can blame them? […] I read a story recently, where a doctor in a mental institution, in a certain country in South America is saying, ‘My whole life, I’ve been so busy taking care of people, but now, I have no people to take care of, because they’re all being sent into the United States.”
Needless to say, per CNN, Trump’s campaign could not provide the tiniest shred of evidence to back up this ridiculous story:
“Trump’s campaign was unable to provide any evidence of the existence of a news story about a no-longer-busy doctor at a South American mental institution – and the campaign also failed to provide any evidence that South American countries are emptying mental health facilities to somehow send patients into the US. Representatives for two anti-immigration organizations told us they had not heard of anything that would corroborate any of Trump’s story, as did three experts at organizations favorable toward immigration. CNN’s own search did not produce any evidence. The website FactCheck.org also found nothing”
If you think about it, how the hell could massive numbers of people institutionalized in mental institutions because they can’t meet the basic needs of their existence make their way through all the hurdles of a journey northward through multiple countries to get to the US border? It makes no sense, but MAGAism and thought don’t often go together.
Beyond the psychological and political value of demonizing immigrants, as I’ll discuss below, some Republicans are actually trying to use the “Invasion at the Border” Big Lie to advance highly dubious legal theories. Governor Greg Abbott of Texas frequently refers to the migrant influx as an “invasion” and has claimed that this characterization gives Texas the right to overrule the federal government on immigration. Yes, that’s a direct contradiction of the Constitution, but Abbott is hanging his cowboy hat on a creative reading of Article I, Section 10, which states:
“No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.”
Get it? By pretending that Texas is actually being invaded, Abbott can claim that his state has the right to ignore, obstruct and/or overrule the activities of the federal government to control immigration – most recently including Texas forcing the death of a migrant woman and her two children by blocking US Border Patrol from rescuing them as they tried to cross the Rio Grande.
II. The “Replacement Theory” Big Lie and Its Death Toll
But as their goal is political power, it’s not enough for Republicans to blame foreign governments for immigration – they need to claim their domestic opponents are to blame as well. Hence, the right-wing promotion of the truly racist and destructive “Replacement Theory.”
This conspiracy theory posits that Jews and other “cultural elites” are purposely flooding Western nations with immigrants from developing nations in order to prop up support for progressive parties and thereby (of course!) destroy Western civilization. This fever dream actually started with a French writer but quickly migrated worldwide through such online swamps as 4chan.
As the extremist, white supremacist right and the Republican party grew closer and closer together under Trump, the paranoia of replacement theory increasingly crept into GOP talking points. Tucker Carlson served as a particularly effective bridge between the two, saying on TV in 2021:
“I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots with new people, more obedient voters from the third world. But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening actually.”
But it wasn’t just the since-fired Carlson, but his fellow Fox talking heads Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity who started parroting this extremist line. Elon Musk also notoriously jumped on this bandwagon last year, for example, when he:
“appeared to endorse an antisemitic post by user @breakingbaht alleging that ‘Jewish communities have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.’ In response, Musk posted, ‘You have spoken the actual truth.’”
And with all this cover, Republican politicians felt free to go there too, as Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted “@TuckerCarlson is CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening to America” and Rep. Elise Stefanik took out a Facebook ad shouting that:
“Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION. Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”
As Republicans dabbled in extremist theories, the fringes took note – and responded with savagery. The violent incidents and outright massacres directly inspired so far by replacement theory include:
- Charlottesvile, Virginia (August 2017: 1 killed): Remember the bizarre chant, “The Jews will not replace us”?
- Christchurch, New Zealand (March 2019: 51 killed): A white supremacist invaded two mosques and livestreamed his murder of scores of Muslims there. He posted a 74-page manifesto entitled “The Great Replacement” ranting about projected population increases in Western countries: “All through immigration. This is ethnic replacement. This is cultural replacement. This is racial replacement. This is WHITE GENOCIDE.”
- Poway, California (May 2019: 1 killed): The gunman, who attacked a synagogue, posted a manifesto stating that he was inspired by the Christchurch killer and “that Jews were preparing a ‘meticulously planned genocide of the European race.”
- El Paso, Texas (August 2019: 23 killed): The shooter drove 650 miles to find a Walmart likely to be full of Latinos, where he opened fire. He posted yet another manifesto, stating: “In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto. This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”
- Buffalo, New York (May 2022: 10 killed): The killer posted to 4chan an “180-page document…full of racist rants [that] appears to embrace ‘the great replacement’ white supremacist conspiracy theory that claims that an elite cabal of Jews, corporate leaders and politicians are intentionally diluting the white population through permissive immigration and by promoting diversity.” He too claimed inspiration from the Christchurch murderer.
Is that enough killing for you, Donald, Greg, Tucker, Matt, Elon, Elise, etc.?
III. Using Scare Tactics to Justify Fascism
It would be nice to live in a world where we could believe the Republicans relentlessly pushing the Invasion/Replacement Big Lie when they disavow any responsibility for the slaughter of all the innocent people lost in the name of this rhetoric. But too many of them have made it way too clear that they mean exactly what they say and aren’t concerned about the consequences.
The violence embedded in the right-wing message is hard to miss. Listen to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis setting the scene to justify state violence: “You’re already on U.S. soil once…you get through the wall. You have hostile intent, because you’re obviously running drugs. You absolutely can use deadly force.”
Or listen to Gov. Abbott snidely remarking: “So, we are deploying every tool and strategy that we possibly can. The only thing that we’re not doing is we’re not shooting people who come across the border, because of course, the Biden administration would charge us with murder.”
They understand that their dehumanization of immigrants, and classification of them as invading enemy hordes, opens the door to every form of attack on these poor folks – and the demagogues are okay with that. Why else would Trump be borrowing the language of Adolf Hitler that “illegal immigration is poisoning the blood of our nation.”
The threats and incitement here are purposeful and clear. It is only the latest of many signs that Republican politics is no longer about some sort of bland, innocuous conservatism, but increasingly looks and sounds like fascism. As philosophy professor Jason Stanley put it in his book, How Fascism Works:
“The most telling symptom of fascist politics is division. It aims to separate a population into an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ [by] appealing to ethnic, religious or racial distinctions, and using this division to shape ideology and, ultimately, policy. Every mechanism of fascist politics works to create or solidify this distinction.”
If we are being “invaded”, then there is no reason, much less time, to deal with the flaws of our immigration system calmly and rationally. No, it must be an emergency for which we need to take extraordinary action to save our country and culture.
This is rhetoric designed to enrage the masses, not educate them or enlist them in civil action. And it needs to be called out as such, every single time, not just accepted and normalized.