- The GOP has spent months manufacturing a “Biden border crisis” narrative.
- GOP reps and local officials have taken multiple trips to the southern border with props.
- For the GOP, the border is a space for political theater to boost 2022 midterm election chances.
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Continuing former President Donald Trump’s raucous tone and hardline narrative on immigration, GOP lawmakers at the state and federal level are leaning into his signature tactic of centering on fear of the southern border.
Under Trump, political stunts at the border — including Trump signing a metal slat of the border wall — and drumming up fear of migrant caravans were part of a strategy of fear he began employing from the moment he announced his 2026 candidacy. The tactic was also used during the 2018 midterms.
The recent outrage optics revolve around repeatedly referring to immigration at the southern border as a “crisis,” or “surge” — which immigration experts told Insider was a largely untrue characterization of the typically higher number of border crossings in the spring and summer, along with the added numbers of immigrants unable to cross due to pandemic border closures in 2020.
As The New York Times’s Jonathan Weisman reported, the perception of crises has been and continues to be a central part of GOP messaging given its effectiveness in ginning up support from Trump’s base. As Weisman points out, the GOP is cycling through a series of crises, including immigration.
In late March, Sen. Ted Cruz organized a delegation of GOP representatives to take a boat ride with machine guns aplomb along the Rio Grande, which separates Mexico and Texas.
“On the other side of the river we have been listening to and seeing cartel members – human traffickers – right on the other side of the river waving flashlights, yelling and taunting Americans, taunting the border patrol,” Cruz said in a late-night Twitter video post.
—Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 26, 2021
Weeks before, at a press conference along the border, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed people registered to the terrorist watch list were infiltrating the southern border, a claim Customs and Border Patrol quickly pushed back on, with a spokesperson saying at the time that, “encounters of known and suspected terrorists at our borders are very uncommon.”
It’s a line Trump’s former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also peddled in 2019.
Freshman Reps. Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene argued that Vice President Kamala Harris, who Biden appointed as immigration czar, is failing at her job — especially during her immigration-focused trip to Guatemala in June.
Boebert, in early June, took the stunt to a new level, carrying a cutout of Harris to the border. “Now Kamala, I want you to stand here and look at what you’ve done”, Boebert said at her press conference.
Greene repeated that sentiment and a push for Harris to visit the border in a press conference in the Capitol on Thursday. “She is failing in her job. You know what happens when someone fails in their job? They need to be fired.” Greene said.
Ironically, Harris and other administration officials have taken a harder line on immigration and have been critiqued by the progressive wing and advocates who say it is not doing enough to prioritize compassionate immigration reform.
Speaking to Guatemalans in their home country, Harris told listeners, “Do not come,” to the US. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ has repeated that the US-Mexico border is “closed,” while the US declines to repeal Title 42, a CDC regulation which, with exceptions for unaccompanied minors, has effectively brought border crossings to a standstill since the pandemic started in March 2020.
Those with possible 2024 ambitions, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have leaned into the southern border and culture war flash points.
DeSantis said he would send Florida law enforcement to the border in Texas and Arizona.
Abbott has blamed migrants for spreading COVID-19 and fentanyl and deployed state troopers and the national guard to an already militarized border. He also announced that the state would finance $250 million of border wall construction, alongside crowdfunding efforts.
(A previous crowdfunding effort for the border wall endorsed by Trump built zero feet of wall and ended in an indictment.)
This week, Trump accepted Abbott’s invitation for an “official” visit to the border.
And according to a prodding fundraising text message sent out by the National Senatorial Republican Committee, the group is hyping up the visit.
—Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) June 18, 2021
As Republicans try to win back the House, Senate, and in 2024, the presidency, they’re relying on Trumpian campaign tactics and his base — and the former president himself at the border as the best political prop of all.