Even immigration restrictionists stay away from GOP’s ‘invasion’ rhetoric

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun14,2024

Republican use of the term “invasion” is putting party officials at odds with the immigration restrictionists behind much of the party’s ideological framework on the issue.

The term has become a mainstay of Republican political rhetoric ahead of elections in November, but its use as a descriptor of the situation at the southern border has been widely panned as inaccurate and incendiary, even by groups including the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and NumbersUSA.

At a House Natural Resources Committee hearing earlier this month, Rep. Delia Ramírez (D-Ill.) outlined the dangers of the so-called “Great Replacement Theory,” in the process accusing CIS Director of Policy Studies Jessica Vaughan of using the term, which Vaughan vehemently denied.

“I don’t use that term. That’s not appropriate to the border … discussion,” said Vaughan, who often appears as the face of immigration restrictionism in congressional hearings.

Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) — a hardliner who has called for the ouster of Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) for not prioritizing border legislation — was presiding over the hearing on cartel impacts on Indian country and later allowed Vaughan a full rebuttal.

“The implications about me and my organization and our work are completely wrong. We reject the ideas that she was attributing to us, and I find this to be a distraction in a discussion of a really serious public policy problem, public safety problem that certainly is very serious to the representatives of Indian country here, and a distraction from that,” said Vaughan.

“We need to be able to face these issues without name calling or maligning of motives.”

Immigrant, civil rights and human rights advocates have for decades decried and publicly questioned the motives of groups such as CIS, NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which share foundational origins.

The three groups were directly or indirectly founded by John Tanton, a Michigan ophthalmologist who promoted an unorthodox vision of population control and environmentalism through reduced immigration that’s been widely panned as eugenicist.

Tanton at one point was involved in funding a movie version of “The Camp of the Saints,” a 1973 novel that itself is seen as foundational for the Great Replacement theory.

The Tanton network groups are partially funded by the Colcom Foundation — a collaboration between Tanton and Cordelia Scaife May, a Mellon-Scaife family fortune heiress — which calls for immigration restrictions so “the U.S. can stabilize and gradually decrease its population, thereby shrinking its ecological footprint.”

And the three groups provided much of the ideology, inside knowledge and even manpower for the Trump administration’s restructuring of the immigration system.

Yet they publicly disavow the invasion terminology that Republicans have adopted.

“No, we don’t use it, and I know Jessica Vaughan, I’ve heard her say that she doesn’t think we should use it — our side. And I mean, here’s the thing. There’s two questions here: one is whether it constitutes an actual invasion,” said Eric Ruark, director of research at NumbersUSA.

“The first part is, it’s hard to argue that it’s an invasion when they’re being invited in, right? Number one, people aren’t showing up to the border armed.”

Ruark added there are concerns over incidents such as the border “bum rush” in Texas in March and tensions between migrants and the Border Patrol, “but there’s not widespread assaults, they’re not you know – they’re turning themselves in, they’re getting fingerprinted and then they’re being released even though they’re inadmissible, but it doesn’t constitute something that would be called an invasion, in our opinion.”

Republicans, however, egged on by former President Trump, who’s been using the term in the immigration context since at least 2018, are all in on calling migration “an invasion.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a potential Trump running mate, on Friday used the term in a social media post blaming President Biden for the number of people who have entered the United States through the southwest border.

The rhetorical issue has taken on real-world consequences in the fight between Texas and the federal government over immigration jurisdiction.

The Constitution allows states to engage in war if “actually invaded,” a clause Texas officials have cited to justify the state’s crackdowns, though three appeals courts in the 1990s rejected the idea that a surge in migration numbers qualifies as an actual invasion.

In January, the issue hit the House Judiciary Committee, which held a hearing to parse federal versus state jurisdiction, where Republicans largely argued the issue was a legal one, and Democrats retorted it was purely political.

Whether legal or political, the language can have grave consequences, say critics of rhetoric that seems to have superseded its ideological underpinnings.

“They’re off their rocker and they’re doing damage to the country, not just in terms of the policy, but in terms of their rhetoric — and it’s not a coincidence that the El Paso shooter, the Buffalo shooter, the Pittsburgh shooter, and I think I’m missing at least one more, and maybe more than that, all cited invasion rhetoric in their pre-shooting spree manifestos and social media posts,” said Mario H. Lopez, president of the conservative Hispanic Leadership Fund and a longtime critic of the Tanton network.

The Tanton groups don’t engage in the political use of invasion language and don’t disavow politicians who use it but do remain wary of potential fallout.

“When Donald Trump talks about it, he’s a double-edged sword here, because he talks — he raises the issue, but he’s not very good at the policy aspects of it,” said Ruark.

Despite their stylistic differences, immigration restriction advocates and Republicans hardliners share a common short-term goal, to pass more legislation based on H.R.2, a hawkish bill passed by the House but ignored by the Senate in May.

Mike Johnson, meanwhile, is engaged in a scuffle with some of his former Freedom Caucus allies for refusing to hold Ukraine aid hostage to Senate passage of H.R.2, and instead proposing the End the Border Catastrophe Act, which included elements of H.R.2 but failed in the House Saturday, as a bipartisan coalition led by Johnson passed a $95 billion foreign aid package, including $61 billion to Ukraine.

The bill was seen as appeasement to the party’s right, but it never stood a chance, as it needed a two-thirds majority to pass under suspension of the rules.

Hard-line Republicans including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Bob Good (Va.) had preemptively dismissed the new border bill as a distraction, with Greene writing it off as a “shiny object.”

That sort of political bickering mirrors Trump’s “double-edged sword,” as the Tanton groups have never before wielded as much political influence as they do now, though their allies in government present a tone and language that restrictionists have publicly avoided.

Groups like NumbersUSA have spent decades cultivating an image as a sober, calm, immigrant-friendly voice on the restrictionist side of the immigration debate, but their longtime critics say support for doomed bills like H.R.2  belies that notion.

“If you cared about actual border security, you would propose things and support things that bring order and are a simpler, fairer, more efficient legal process, because that’s the only thing that is going to stop illegal immigration,” said Lopez.

“The orderly, more efficient process for legal immigration — it is the only thing. You cannot turn any quote-unquote ‘magnet’ — the term they use — off, because the magnet isn’t any one of the things that they say it is. The magnet is America itself.”

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “Even immigration restrictionists stay away from GOP’s ‘invasion’ rhetoric”
  1. It’s concerning how the GOP’s use of the term “invasion” inflames the discourse on immigration. The rhetoric is not only inaccurate but also divisive. It’s essential to focus on policies rather than using such provocative language.

  2. Do the Republican party officials realize the impact of using the term “invasion” on the issue of immigration? Has there been any effort to address the concerns raised by groups like the Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA regarding the accuracy and inflammatory nature of the rhetoric?

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