Posted on February 13, 2024

The Border Crisis Is Helping to Mainstream a Dangerous Conspiracy Theory

Odette Yousef, NPR, February 9, 2024

As the election year gets underway, a conspiratorial narrative typically circulated by fringe movements has come to dominate mainstream Republican discourse on immigration, extremism researchers warn. Specifically, they say that rhetoric used by Republican officeholders about the surge of migrants at the border with Mexico increasingly echoes the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that has inspired violence in the past and could do so again in the future.

“This is the idea that directly influenced the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooter, the El Paso Walmart shooter, the Buffalo supermarket shooter,” said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism {snip}


Another version, voiced by some high-ranking GOP officials, asserts that Democrats are intentionally bringing in immigrants to dilute the strength of Republican voters. This narrative has been articulated by now-GOP House Speaker Mike Johnson, including at a House Judiciary Committee hearing prior to his elevation to party leadership.

“If you’re scratching your head, you’ve seen the video, you see droves of people, 2.4 million people coming over the border illegally, the president allowing it, the Democrats in charge of Congress are allowing it,” he said in 2022. “The deal is they’re going to turn them into voters.”

Extremism experts say that the potency of the border issue as a rallying cry to a broad spectrum of the right is evidenced by who attended the recent truck convoys in Texas, California and Arizona.


Beirich said she worries that the energy that the issue has generated on the right will ultimately mean that the dehumanizing narratives will go unchecked.

“We used to see figures in the Republican Party reject any kind of extremism in past eras, whether it was somebody who was connected to, let’s say, neo-Nazis or white nationalists. They’d be thrown out of the party,” she said. “That just doesn’t happen anymore.”