As conservative influence continues to invade liberal spaces disguised as anti-Trump allyship, so goes anti-immigrant positioning. Nothing is more evident of that than when white supremacists act on the rhetoric. We saw it with the massacre in El Paso and, more recently, with two men who murdered an asylum-seeker in just the last week.
Based on extremist posts on various channels, more attacks on migrants are inevitable. The murderer in this most recent case was the warden of one of the most notorious migrant detention facilities in the United States. Michale Sheppard oversaw the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) West Texas Detention Center in Sierra Blanca, Texas.
Michael and his twin brother Mark were arrested on Wednesday, September 28, 2022. Both men are accused of firing shots at four migrants who were drinking water from a water tank on the side of the road. The pair exited their vehicle and fired at least two shots at the migrants. A male asylum-seeker was shot in the head and died at the scene. A female migrant was shot in the stomach and taken to an El Paso area hospital.
The asylum-seekers tried hiding behind the water tank as shots were fired.
“Racially charged murders happen when we promote language and policies that produce hate,” Mexican American Legislative Caucus vice-chair and state Rep. Mary González told the San Antonio Express-News. “People have died in our state just based on the color of their skin — in El Paso three years ago, and now in our neighboring Hudspeth County. This was murder and attempted murder of people trying to get clean water just because of the color of their skin.”
It’s telling that the Texas Democratic Party, among many other groups, has issued statements rebuking the actions of the two men, yet, Republicans have not. Since the incident happened, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has largely remained silent and has instead done an interview with Univision declaring how his “wife and her family came here legally” – as if to suggest an incident like this only happens to what he and so many U.S. citizens refer to as “illegal” immigrants.
Gov. Abbott also said the terrorist attack in Uvalde, Texas “could have been worse,” echoing the inhumane attitudes that can be found in conservative circles across the country. The more voters allow politicians with massive platforms to normalize the language of hate, the more we will see atrocities committed against Latinos and asylum-seekers alike. Nothing makes that more evident than Latinos being the focus of immigration discussions.
The Language of Hate
Not long ago it was common to hear someone declare themselves “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” as a way to generalize being center-right. In the current political environment, the new phrasing to disguise far-right conservative bias seems to be, “I’m pro-legal immigration, not illegal immigration.” The dehumanization of calling asylum-seekers “aliens” also has similar effects that lead to murder. Its phrasing can be heard in right-wing and liberal media alike.
A new FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos survey further bolsters the unmistakable. Immigration remains a third-tier issue behind inflation, extremism, and crime. Among liberals, immigration falls below climate change as the fifth most important issue. While immigration seems less important in the grand scheme, drilling down into the survey is telling on many fronts.
The study’s detailed findings show respondents rated inflation as a top issue. That number is down compared to last August (54% – 61%). Political extremism (34%) and crime (32%) came in just behind economic concerns. Climate change (20%), immigration (19%), and government spending/debt (18%) rounded out the top 6 concerns of those surveyed.
When asked directly about whether the government should focus on climate change or immigration, respondents were divided with 36% saying the environment should be a priority while 35% said immigration should be. As expected, these numbers break down by political affiliation. 65% of Democrats said climate change must be prioritized while 65% of Republicans said immigration must.
Digging deeper is even more telling. The vast majority (95%) believe what they call “illegal immigration” is a larger issue than legal immigration. Even more disheartening is more than one-third of the U.S. (39%) don’t know that most immigrants are in the country legally while 31% believe most are not. Only 28% know that most immigrants are here legally. Republicans are most likely (48%) to believe most immigrants are in the United States “illegally”.
Nearly half of those surveyed (46%) think the United States needs stricter undocumented immigration regulations. Again, Republicans dominate that category with 78% believing the U.S. needs more rules for undocumented immigrants. Democrats represented more division on the matter with 24% believing rules should be more strict, 27% less strict, and 33% thinking they should remain the same.
However, regarding the border wall, 45% of those surveyed believe it should be expanded, with Republicans representing 80% of those polled, independents at 42%, and Democrats at 18%. It also goes without saying that far fewer respondents (16%) support building a wall between the United States and Canada remaining a largely undesirable idea.
While the survey may show divisions about immigration along political lines, the language in so-called “liberal” spaces is beginning to sound more and more like far-right media every day. A disheartening development that continues to incrementally embrace the inhumane treatment of non-white people. Even worse, some Latinos are embracing the ideology as well.
It’s past time to start calling things what they are.