Anti-immigrant bigotry is reaching a frenzied pitch as Texas continues to defy a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that grants U.S. border agents permission to remove razor wire Gov. Greg Abbott has erected along portions of the Rio Grande.
Abbott has pledged even more wire will be installed along the U.S.-Mexico border as an act of “self-defense” supported by at least 25 Republican governors and a growing number of Donald Trump supporters.
The anger is being stoked by the false narrative of an invasion by immigrants bent on destroying the American way of life, said Stephen Reeves, executive director of Fellowship Southwest.
“A lot of people who embrace vigilante rhetoric are so far removed from the actual stories of people fleeing that if they heard them, perhaps it would soften their points of view. And many of them are pretty far removed from the border, as well,” he said.
“The governor, he’s clearly auditioning for a role in the possible Trump administration. All of this is highly politically motivated, but it is the federal government that controls immigration.”
The border dispute between Abbott and the Biden administration began to escalate last month when personnel with the Texas Department of Law Enforcement and National Guard set up razor wire and fencing in a park in Eagle Pass that is heavily used by migrants entering the country. Law enforcement officers then barred U.S. Border Patrol agents from removing the barricade.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the U.S. government should have access to the disputed area, thus reaffirming the federal government’s historical responsibility for managing the nation’s borders.
But Abbott’s continued refusal to comply with the ruling, and to instead continue erecting barriers, sparked an outpouring of support from conservatives who, in some cases, were intent on stopping immigration themselves.
Texas Public Radio reported Feb. 7 that a “right-wing border convoy” consisting of “Trump supporters, migration hawks, election deniers and conspiracy theorists” rallied in Eagle Pass, harassed police and left residents “on edge.”
The Republican Governors Association chimed in with a statement falsely accusing President Biden of leaving the border unguarded and for time and money spent suing Texas instead of stopping border incursions.
“We stand in solidarity with our fellow governor, Greg Abbott, and the state of Texas in utilizing every tool and strategy, including razor wire fences, to secure the border,” the group said. “We do it in part because the Biden administration is refusing to enforce immigration laws already on the books and is illegally allowing mass parole across America of migrants who entered our country illegally.”
Comparing immigration to a military invasion, the statement claimed states have “a right to self-defense” under the Constitution. “Because the Biden administration has abdicated its constitutional compact duties to the states, Texas has every legal justification to protect the sovereignty of our states and our nation.”
Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, countered that “false and inciteful political rhetoric from Gov. Greg Abbott is agitating people to possibly commit acts of violence and mass murder.
“We urge our members, especially those in Texas, to be on alert for armed, out-of-state extremists with a hate agenda. We’ve seen death at the hands of shooters due to hate speech. We cannot forget what occurred at the Walmart in El Paso, Texas, just a few years ago. Hate speech is being used yet again to ratchet up anger and hatred that are putting Hispanic Texans, law enforcement, military service members and innocent civilians in the crosshairs.”
Garcia also chastised Abbott and others for diverting funds and efforts away from the real problems plaguing the nation’s immigration system.
“We need true bipartisan support for immigration reform, a multipronged approach to reforming our immigration system. Our focus needs to target drug cartels, human smugglers and arms runners, not families, women and children,” he said. “At the same time, we need to open legal immigration options for real refugees and provide legalization for those immigrants with no criminal record who pay a fine and pass a background check.”
Anti-immigrant rallies held in Texas, Arizona and California recently signaled that bigotry has reached fever pitch in the U.S., said Stephen Piggott, momentum program director at the Western States Center, a Portland-based civil rights group that monitors anti-democracy movements nationwide.
“The rallies come as elected officials and right-wing media continue to echo white nationalist conspiracy theories about the intentional replacement of white America,” he said. “The events are a clear example of how anti-immigrant bigotry can translate to mobilizations and are a warning sign in an election where many will rely on nativist animus for attempted political gain.”
It also is disturbing that some rallies were attended by elected leaders, white nationalists and armed vigilantes, Piggott added. “The scenes at these border rallies represent a snapshot of what anti-democracy forces want America to look like; and we must continue to push back against that vision.”
Pushing back must also include sharing the stories of immigrants whose suffering is escalating due to Texas’ defiant actions, Reeves said.
“What the governor is doing, as far as the fortification and militarization of the border, is an incredible waste of taxpayer funding. And the more you fortify the border and make asylum seekers wait in Mexico, the more you strengthen the cartel and increase their profits,” he said. “For people who are fleeing, what we are doing is forcing them to take more dangerous routes that could often lead to death for themselves, and which are controlled by the cartels.”