Republicans use Israeli attack to stoke fears over US-Mexico border | ET REALITY

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Crime in American cities. The national opioid crisis. Electoral integrity. And now a terrorist attack considered the deadliest day for Jews in Israel’s 75-year history.

Not long after Hamas terrorists killed and kidnapped hundreds of Israelis this month, a wave of Republicans (in the presidential campaign, in state and congressional elections, and in the far-right corners of the conservative media) turned to to a family manual: link the topic. to the southern border of the country.

“What happened to Israel could happen to the United States because our country has been invaded by millions of people from more than 160 different countries,” said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. on Fox News more than 24 hours after the attack.

“We know there is an open border, and I know the biggest threat to national security is if those terrorists come into the United States and we have another 9/11,” said Nikki Haley, a former United Nations ambassador under former President Donald J. Trump she told reporters last week in Concord, NH

“You can’t forget that the same people who attacked Israel are now reaching levels no one can believe in our beautiful United States across our wide open border,” Trump said Monday, an unsubstantiated claim that was met with applause in a campaign event. event in Clive, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines.

While Republicans face deep divisions, the remarkable unity on this front underscores the extent to which the 2,000-mile dividing line between the United States and Mexico remains a potent political symbol for the party. Since Trump paved his way to power with a nativist, hardline approach to immigration, Republicans have invoked border fortification to address almost every issue, in increasingly militant terms and often overstating the facts.

There is some indications That message is resonating. A national NBC News poll conducted in September suggests that voters overwhelmingly trust Republicans over Democrats when it comes to handling the economy and crime, as well as immigration, heading into the 2024 elections.

Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio, said aggressive pivots toward the border could be particularly effective now that the Biden administration faces two very real humanitarian crises: a record number of migrants trying to cross the border and a Fight fentanyl, which has become an urgent public health problem.

“The border is something that worries most Americans, especially when you can tie it to problems they see in their own neighborhoods,” he said.

Homeland Security officials have said they have not found any specific or credible threats to the United States linked to Hamas. White House spokesman Andrew Bates responded to Republicans in part by saying there is a “strict national security investigation to determine whether individuals from anywhere in the world have ties to terrorist organizations.” Immigration experts said the government cannot control people who enter undetected, but that large numbers of immigrants who turn themselves in at the border are subject to screening processes.

Since the southern border was drawn, American politicians have tried to gain political advantage by playing on xenophobic fears, sometimes directed at Chinese workers, or young Germans believed to be spies, or Jews and Catholics, historians and analysts said. politicians.

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a government professor at George Mason University in Virginia who followed the rise of the Mexican criminal organization Los Zetas, said the latest Republican rhetoric was inspired by three distinct moments in U.S. history: the migration of Mexican workers who became the economic engine of the southwest, the government war on drugs that began in the 1970s, and the terrorist attack of September 11 and the so-called war on terrorism. It all resulted in an increased military presence at the border, the construction of physical barriers and an expansion of the US deportation system.

Ms. Correa-Cabrera said that, just like now, those first border control measures They were based primarily on political arguments, not on evidence that migrants increased crime or posed a greater threat to public safety. Many studies have shown that this is not the case.

“It had to do with prejudice,” he said.

Attempts by politicians to link Middle Eastern terrorist groups and Mexican criminal organizations have at times gained traction over the past two decades, but no substantial evidence has emerged to support the claim, counterterrorism and insurgency experts said. The two types of groups have very different objectives and operate in cultural and economic border regions that do not share even remotely similar dynamics.

As apprehensions at the southern border have increased overall, U.S. officials have recorded an increase in arrests of people whose identities match those on the FBI’s terrorist watch list: 160 immigrants in fiscal year 2023 starting in July, up from 100 the previous fiscal year, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Such lists constitute a small fraction of the millions of people seeking to cross the southern border and do not meaningfully measure the terrorist threat to the United States, terrorism and insurgency experts said. The increase may be due in part to the broad nature of the lists, they added, which include people wanted for terrorist activities against their home countries but not directed at the United States, as well as family members or associates not accused of wrongdoing. .

Although experts do not completely rule out the threat of a terrorist attack launched from the southern border, they called it unlikely.

If Middle Eastern terrorist organizations ever planned an attack, “the northern border could be even more vulnerable,” said Bruce Hoffman, a professor and director of the Center for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University, who specializes in terrorism studies. . And such a plot would not necessarily be related to illegal immigration, he added.

The 9/11 hijackers entered the United States on tourist, business and student visas. The last man to physically cross the border with materials for an explosive, Ahmed Ressam, was arrested in 1999 after arriving from Canada.

Still, the southern border remains a powerful symbol, for politicians and voters. When Mr. Trump adopted his “America First” slogan during his 2016 campaign. In his presidential campaign, he used it to tap into grievances, xenophobia and fears about threats from abroad, economic competition from China in trade, and the potential economic and social consequences of a surge in new immigrants.

On Monday, Trump, criticized for his criticism of Israel and for calling Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terrorist organization, “very smart,” invoked Hamas’s deadly attacks on the Jewish state to stoke fears of terrorism in his country. Returning to some of his more incendiary themes about illegal immigration, he also took aim at legal avenues by promising to reinstate the ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries and expand the refugee freeze he enacted during his presidency.

“We will not bring anyone from Gaza,” he said at his rally in Clive.

Trump is not alone. Republican candidates like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida often steer conversations with voters toward immigration. At a town hall in Iowa in August, when asked two questions in quick succession on unrelated topics, DeSantis managed to get the border right. On the issue of expropriation, he said he would support it “for the border wall in the south.” When asked about the war in Ukraine, he said that as president, his “first obligation” would be to “protect the American people and protect our border.”

In emails, television ads and comments, Republicans in state and congressional elections regularly criticize border enforcement. They blame Mexican criminal organizations and undocumented immigrants for the fentanyl crisis, but not the American pharmaceutical companies that fueled the legal drug market or the American citizens who, authorities say, often bring the strongest narcotics through of the border. They have baselessly claimed that unauthorized immigrants are gaining access to the polls, while claims that large numbers of undocumented immigrants are voting have been consistently debunked.

Historians and political analysts have warned that much of the heated language about immigration plays on far-right and sometimes explicitly racist tropes that stoke fear with the potential for violence.

Two white supremacists suspected of shooting in the last five years, Robert Bowers in Pittsburgh and Patrick Crusius in El Paso, Texas, He cited “invaders” and a “Hispanic invasion” in the lead-up to his crimes.

On Saturday, authorities in suburban Chicago said, Joseph Czuba, 71, fatally stabbed a 6-year-old boy and seriously injured the boy’s mother because of his Palestinian origin. Officials linked the attack to what Czuba was listening to on conservative radio about fighting abroad.

Nicolas Nehamas and Eileen Sullivan contributed to this report.

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