Talk of an Immigrant ‘Invasion’ Grows in Republican Ads and Speech

A campaign ad from a Republican congressional candidate from Indiana sums up the arrival of migrants at the border with one word. He doesn’t call it a problem or a crisis.

He calls it an “invasion.”

The word invasion also appears in ads for two Republicans competing for a Senate seat in Michigan. And it shows up in an ad for a Republican congresswoman seeking re-election in central New York, and in one for a Missouri lieutenant governor running for the state’s governorship. In West Virginia, ads for a Republican representative facing an uphill climb for the Senate say President Biden “created this invasion” of migrants.

It was not so long ago that the term invasion had been mostly relegated to the margins of the national immigration debate. Many candidates and political figures tended to avoid the word, which echoed demagoguery in previous centuries targeting Asian, Latino and European immigrants. Few mainstream Republicans dared use it.

But now, the word has become a staple of Republican immigration rhetoric. Use of the term in television campaign ads in the current election cycle has already eclipsed the total from the previous one, data show, and the word appears in speeches, TV interviews and even in legislation proposed in Congress.

The resurgence of the term exemplifies the shift in Republican rhetoric in the era of former President Donald J. Trump and his right-wing supporters. Language once considered hostile has become common, sometimes precisely because it runs counter to politically correct sensibilities. Immigration has also become more divisive, with even Democratic mayors complaining about the number of migrants in their cities.

Democrats and advocates for migrants denounce the word and its recent turn from being taboo. Historians and analysts who study political rhetoric have long warned that the term dehumanizes those to whom it refers and could stoke violence, noting that it appeared in writings by perpetrators of deadly mass shootings in Pittsburgh, Pa.; El Paso, Texas; and Buffalo, N.Y., in recent years.

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