News Release

Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric in 2024

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MAX ELBAUM; ​​maxie@igc.org 
    Elbaum is an author and activist. He writes for Convergence Mag

Elbaum told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy are central to the MAGA movement in the current moment. But the MAGA movement is the latest manifestation of a 60-year counteroffensive against the progressive changes that were won in the 1960s. Trump is the product of a long movement. But his individual role has reshaped the direction and some of the priorities and rhetoric of that movement. At times, the media hasn’t captured how dynamic that relationship is––and makes mistakes in emphasizing Trump as an individual, rather than emphasizing the social aspect of it.

“There’s an increasing sense of the need to take Trump seriously, but it’s not at the alarm level that I would suggest is warranted… These aren’t just campaign promises. They have a whole cadre of people ready to come in to enforce” their agenda.  

“The meme that’s out there is that immigrants are invading the U.S. There are different wings of the repressive crackdown. It takes two forms: in the MAGA movement, it is posed as part of the Great Replacement, or the effort to replace white America with people ‘from shithole countries,’ to use Trump’s phrase, and that there is a conspiracy of globalist Jews who are bringing in people of color to change the electorate. But there is [also] a wing of the Democrats that has embraced harsh anti-immigrant measures. They emphasize that there are too many people, that they are breaking the law, that we have to protect our borders, [and] that this is a threat to labor rights and jobs. They don’t tend to use the same kind of hateful rhetoric. But in terms of policy, that wing of the Democrats has caved to the idea that we have to view [immigration] as a security threat and not as something that has to do with the dynamics of global migration due to war, inequality, and climate change.”

Since the last progressive immigration reform in the 1960s, and especially since 1986, immigration policy has been framed in terms of a tradeoff, Elbaum argues. “You trade repressive enforcement mechanisms at the border in exchange for a legalization program, a way for undocumented people to legalize their status. That’s been the back and forth between the Republican and Democratic parties. But that tradeoff is off the table [now]. The Biden administration and the Democrats were willing to trade the repressive mechanisms for the aid bill to Ukraine and Israel. That’s a backward shift.” 

Elbaum added: “The electoral system is rigged against popular will and progressive change. But despite the fact that we have a system that privileges money and the incredible influence of financial wealth in our politics, the majority of people are against this right-wing movement in the form of MAGA. If that majority can be activated, when it understands the agenda that is behind this, and when that is put front and center by public opinion shapers and influencers and the media, then people turn out against MAGA. When the movement is framed as a right-wing effort to take over politics and redistribute to the wealthy, then we have the majority of American people on our side, and can begin a new cycle of progressive change.”