Over the next few weeks House Republicans on the Judiciary and Oversight committees will launch their latest foray into political theater trying to outdo one another in the intensity of their bigoted and anti-immigrant attacks. While some may write this off as simply performing for the cameras, we should take it much more seriously.
Racist rhetoric and conspiracy theories are not just soundbites for Fox News, they have already contributed to a significant death toll, and the stakes for future violence are incredibly high.
While these hearings are being advertised as Congressional oversight on “border security,” the reality is that they will not address the challenges on immigration, rather they will be a forum where House Republicans will expound on their demagoguery. The urgency to reform our badly outdated immigration system is more evident every day, yet a serious conversation about solutions will not be found among these GOP members.
Instead, these Members will use the hearings as a platform for hate fuelled racist conspiracy theories and will falsely claim that there is a literal “invasion” at the southern border, as Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) did in promoting the Oversight hearing. This rhetoric should not be misinterpreted as mere hyperbole. The language of a so-called migrant “invasion” is inextricably tied to the anti-semitic and white nationalist Great Replacement Theory.
Anyone covering these hearings must understand the origins of this rhetoric and language, and how it was used by the white nationalists in Charlottesville in 2017 who chanted “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.” Stopping the “Hispanic Invasion” was allegedly the motive of a gunman who killed 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso in 2019, according to a screed he wrote. And the specific language of “invasion” and “replacement” was copied by the white nationalist terrorist who murdered 10 people in Buffalo, NY last May. This is context that should be part of any press reports on the hearings and the GOP strategy.
A far cry from the intended function of Congressional hearings, the political theater about to debut risks inflaming the sort of political violence and terrorism that is a top concern for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Last November and December, the DHS issued repeated warnings about serious threats to critical infrastructure and immigrant communities coming from domestic terrorism inflamed by anti-immigrant ideology.
If these hearings were about addressing the challenges of immigration, there would be some kind of proposals under way to address the issue. Instead, Republicans stick to the border wall and ending asylum, which as one member of their own caucus Rep. Tony Gonzales (TX-23), summed up “Trying to ban legitimate asylum claims — one, it’s not Christian, and two, to me, it’s very anti-American.”
For the most part, Rep. Gonzales’ colleagues seem unbothered by stoking hatred and violence. Instead, many members of the GOP caucus enthusiastically embrace it. Both the Judiciary and Oversight committees are stacked with some of the most outspoken bigots on Capitol Hill.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy has given these committee microphones to, among others, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Andy Biggs, and Paul Gosar who will use their positions to advance and further mainstream white nationalist conspiracies about immigration and the border, echoing the rhetoric of white nationalists, but to a much wider audience.
How do we know this? Because we monitor what they say, tweet, and advertise. America’s Voice monitored GOP ads this past cycle and found more than 700 examples using dangerous language of “invasion” and “replacement” conspiracies in campaign messaging from more than 80 Republican candidates.
These hearings are not about policy or solutions. They are about continuing the drumbeat of anti-immigrant hate that we saw all throughout the midterms. We are going to see their opening acts over the next few weeks, and it will devolve from there.
They are performing for Fox News, populating their fundraising ads, and energizing their radicalized base, but these racist conspiracy theories and dehumanizing rhetoric have real life consequences. Recent history has shown how hate speech leads to political and hate violence and these hearings will add more fuel to the fire.