TOP STORIES Talk of "invasion" is moving from the fringes to...

Talk of “invasion” is moving from the fringes to the mainstream of the GOP’s immigration message.


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Blake Masters, the Republican nominee for the US Senate in Arizona, speaks to supporters during a campaign event in Tucson.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

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Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Blake Masters, the Republican nominee for the US Senate in Arizona, speaks to supporters during a campaign event in Tucson.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

In this year’s Republican primary, few issues have been raised in television ads more than immigration. And one word in particular stands out: invasion.

A few years ago, the word was limited to the immigration debate. Most candidates would avoid it.

In this election cycle, it has become mainstream.

“We will end this invasion,” said Blake Masters, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Arizona. in an advertising campaign.

This word has also appeared in advertisements. Governor Brian Kemp in Georgia, Senator Rick Scott in Florida and Kari Lakewho is stuck in a tight race in the Republican primary for governor in Arizona.

“Earlier, these ideas could be considered something out of the ordinary. But now it’s really worrisome,” said Vanessa Cardenas, deputy director of Voice of America, an immigrant advocacy group that monitors political advertising. Dozens of advertisements have been found using the word “invasion” by Republicans campaigning across the country.

“This type of rhetoric is designed to excite people for political reasons,” Cardenas said, “because it makes people angry and hateful.”

Connection with conspiracy theory

It’s been three years since a white gunman opened fire on a Walmart in El Paso, killing 23 people, most of them Hispanics. The suspect was motivated by what he called the “Hispanic Invasion” of people entering the US illegally.

Since then, the number of detentions of migrants at the southern border of the United States has reached new records, and the political rhetoric around immigration has become more strident.

The word “invasion” has a long history in white nationalist circles. For years, it has been widely used by proponents of “replacement theory,” a false conspiracy theory that Jews or other elites deliberately replace white Americans with immigrants and people of color. Until recently, you rarely heard this from Republican officials or candidates.

So what has changed? First, former President Trump, who often used the word “invasion.”

“Trump kind of exposed the rhetoric that resonated with the Republicans,” said John Thomas, a California Republican strategist.

Thomas is working with several Texas candidates who have used “intrusion” in their messaging this election cycle. According to him, this is partly due to the example of Trump. But for Thomas, the bigger issue is what is happening at the southern border, where the number of migrants detained this year will exceed 2 million, breaking a record set just last year.

“The word ‘invasion’ is hitting the hot buttons of Republican voters as they feel it’s a much bigger deal than it used to be,” Thomas said. “The rhetoric amplifies its intensity to match.”

Fears on the southern border are growing

“I’ve never seen what we’re seeing today,” Brad Coe, longtime sheriff of Kinney County, Texas, said at a press conference last month. Coe said his deputies are overwhelmed with attempts to catch illegal migrants crossing ranches and small towns.

“This is unprecedented in Kinney County,” he said. “Our numbers will triple. We can’t stand this kind of invasion.”

Immigration hardliners argue that it’s fair to use the word “invasion” even if the migrants crossing the border don’t look like traditional military forces, in part because their sheer numbers distract law enforcement officials from responding to other threats.

But immigrant advocates say the invasion narrative is fundamentally misleading.

Nearly half of all migrants detained at the southern border are quickly sent back to Mexico. Almost all are unarmed. Many flee poverty, violence, and authoritarian governments across the hemisphere and turn themselves in to border control in the hope of receiving asylum or other protection in the United States.

“Target” on the backs of immigrants

“These are mothers, children and fathers, people who basically do what any of us would do in their place,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat representing El Paso in Congress.

What worries Escobar is that this invasion rhetoric will inspire new tragedy, such as the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, or the shooting earlier this year in Buffalo, where a man suspected of killing 10 blacks was also motivated. replacement theory.

“I’m very, very concerned about communities like mine that we’re going to see more acts of violence against immigrants, against Hispanics because of this rhetoric,” Escobar told reporters on the phone last month.

Supporters say these increasingly extreme language sets a target for immigrants – one that will still be there when the midterms are held.

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