Do Republican Party officials believe Latino immigrants are coming to “replace” Americans, or do they think Latinos are the party’s future? The answer affects whether there will be a legislative solution for young people brought to America by their parents.
Republican lawmakers claiming immigrants are part of a “great replacement” of White voters has been in the news for months. “Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the No. 3 House Republican, and other GOP lawmakers came under scrutiny . . . for previously echoing the racist ‘great replacement’ theory that apparently inspired an 18-year-old who allegedly killed 10 people while targeting Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo,” reported the Washington Post (May 16, 2022). “The baseless conspiracy theory claims that politicians are attempting to wipe out White Americans and their influence by replacing them with non-White immigrants.”
The immigration group America’s Voice has tracked election-year ads and found inflammatory rhetoric about immigrants from Republican candidates. “Almost all the Republicans running statewide in Arizona have made ‘replacement’ and ‘invasion’ conspiracies a central part of their campaigns,” according to an America’s Voice report.
Speaking at a Trump rally on October 9, 2022, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, now considered one of the highest profile Republican members of Congress, said, “Joe Biden’s 5 million illegal aliens are on the verge of replacing you, replacing your jobs, and replacing your kids in school. And coming from all over the world, they’re also replacing your culture. And that’s not great for America.”
It is difficult to square this rhetoric with the actions of the Republican National Committee, which insists Latinos are the future of the Republican Party and have held naturalization events for immigrants around the country.
“Republicans are hoping to reap a long-term return on their outreach effort among Hispanic communities, helping new U.S. residents gain their citizenship and eventually cast their first ballot,” reported the Washington Times (October 4, 2022).
The newspaper reports the Republican National Committee (RNC) held a “graduation ceremony” in Doral, Florida, for immigrants who took civics classes to prepare for the naturalization test to become American citizens. “This is part of our long-term outreach, with community centers but also this program,” said RNC spokeswoman Nicole Morales. “We’re actually investing in these communities and uplifting these communities and not just going in a month before the election to [ask for] votes.”
The Washington Times reports the Republican National Committee “hosted and planned over 100 events for Hispanic Heritage Month” in swing states that include Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Texas, Florida and others. Over 100 Hispanic House candidates are running as Republicans, a new record, according to the RNC.
Immigration Legislation: The conflict between “great replacement” rhetoric and GOP outreach to Latinos affects individuals who need Congress to address their legal status.
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will likely become the House speaker if Republicans take control of the House of Representatives after the November 2022 election. “McCarthy is taking a very hard line on immigration policy,” reported Punchbowl News. “The California Republican is opposed to trading a pathway to citizenship or DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] for increased border security. This is the traditional trade both parties have envisioned for years.”
For DACA supporters, the stance of House Republicans on immigration has increased the urgency for Congress to take action on DACA before January 2023. “Advocates have turned up the pressure on the Senate to pass legislation this year to establish a citizenship path for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, after a federal appeals court dealt yet another blow to the program that for now protects those so-called Dreamers,” reported Suzanne Monyak in Roll Call. (See here for more on DACA legal issues.)
It is also unclear whether there is sufficient Republican support to pass legislation to help another group of young people. “Documented Dreamers” entered the United States on legal visas but would be forced to leave the United States if (or once) they “age out” of their parents’ green card applications. (A documentary by Daniela Cantillo and an interview with the founder of Improve The Dream explain the issue.)
An amendment by Rep. Deborah K. Ross (D-NC) and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) was included in the House defense authorization bill to “protect dependent children of green card applicants and employment-based nonimmigrants who face deportation when they age out of dependent status,” reported Roll Call. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the America’s Children Act, the Senate companion. However, the measure in the defense authorization bill will likely require 60 votes and sufficient support from Republican senators to become law.
There is reason for cautious optimism among supporters of the amendment to provide age-out protections. Five Republicans (Senators Paul, Cramer, Rounds, Blunt and Collins) are sponsors of the Senate amendment on the defense authorization bill. Two other Republicans (Ernst and Murkowski) sponsored the America’s Children Act. In response to a question, Donald Trump said he supported a legislative solution for Documented Dreamers, indicating this is not a “MAGA” issue.
The Border: At the same time the RNC was preparing its Hispanic Heritage month events, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) sought press attention by putting Venezuelan asylum seekers on a flight to Martha’s Vineyard. In an earlier era, conservative Republican Ronald Reagan likely would have lauded Venezuelan immigrants as victims of an oppressive socialist government.
People are motivated to leave their homes for reasons independent of U.S. border policies, which means reviving all Trump administration’s border policies is unlikely to reduce the flows. Refugees and migrants are propelled by problems in their home countries that include violence, political oppression and disastrous economic policies.
More than 7.1 million refugees and migrants have left Venezuela, with most currently living in Latin America. A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report puts the issue in stark terms: “According to the report’s findings, half of all refugees and migrants in the region cannot afford three meals a day and lack access to safe and dignified housing. To access food or avoid living on the streets, many Venezuelans resort to survival sex, begging or indebtedness.”
Under Trump, apprehensions at the Southwest border, a proxy for illegal entry, increased by more than 100 percent between FY 2016 and FY 2019 (from 408,870 to 851,508). With the pandemic, apprehensions declined in March 2020, but by August and September 2020 returned to approximately the same level as August and September 2019.
The Biden administration has maintained a number of Trump policies, such as expelling immigrants under Title 42 health authority to prevent them from applying for asylum. A Department of Homeland Security report released during the Trump administration concluded that many more immigrants started using human smugglers after Border Patrol enforcement increased over the past two decades.
Analysts point out Republican candidates have attacked the Biden administration for the number of people arriving at or crossing the Southwest border but have not offered practical solutions. Such solutions, analysts say, would include significantly expanding the number of available work visas and conducting refugee circuit rides to process individuals before they reach the border.