People For the American Way

PFAW Edit Memo: Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Latino Rhetoric from Republican Leaders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 21, 2015

Contact: Laura Epstein or Layne Amerikaner at People For the American Way

Email: media@pfaw.org

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

To: Interested Parties
From: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way
Date: April 21, 2015
Re: Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Latino Rhetoric from Republican Leaders

In examining the rhetoric of Republican elected officials and candidates surrounding Latinos and immigration policies over the last few years, People For the American Way found overwhelming evidence that extreme anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric remains a cornerstone of the GOP.

From Steve King referring to immigrants as “130-pound” drug runners with “calves the size of cantaloupes” to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s warning that a majority Hispanic population in the U.S. could lead to an ethnic cleansing, it’s clear that deeply-entrenched anti-immigrant, anti-Latino sentiments shape the Republican Party’s world view. No GOP candidates in the 2016 elections can ignore the depth of hostility party leaders have shown toward these communities.

Likely Presidential Candidates

Jeb Bush

Said President Obama’s executive orders were like decrees of a “Latin American dictator.” [Bloomberg, 3/7/15]

Called President Obama’s executive actions on immigration “an abuse of power.” [CNN, 11/21/14]

Said that immigrants “are more fertile” than native-born Americans. [NPR, 6/4/13]

Ben Carson

Said immigrants come to the U.S. for “easy acquisition of public support through welfare programs.” [America’s Voice, 1/22/15]

Blamed measles outbreak on immigrants: “We have to account for the fact that we now have people coming into the country sometimes undocumented people who perhaps have diseases that we had under control.” [Talking Points Memo, 2/3/15]

Claimed President Obama’s executive action is part of a “nefarious agenda” to bring government-dependent voters to the U.S. [Right Wing Watch, 11/21/14]

Speaking about Obama’s executive actions on immigration, said: “Our president is very much like Putin.” [The Daily Caller, 11/21/14]

Said: “People who refuse to comply with the rules must forfeit chances of legalization in the future. Anyone caught involved in voter fraud should be immediately deported and have his citizenship revoked.” [National Review, 11/12/14]

Chris Christie

Called anti-immigrant firebrand Steve King a “friend,” saying, “I don’t back away from my relationship with him one inch.” Has also campaigned for him multiple times. [NJ.com, 10/25/14]

Said: “I want every child who comes to New Jersey to be educated, but I don’t believe that for those people who came here illegally, we should be subsidizing with taxpayer money, through in-state tuition their education.” Christie later flip-flopped on this position. [Fox News Latino, 10/16/13]

As the Newark Star-Ledger editorial board put it: “Christie Has His Eyes On The Presidency. And If He Has To Roll Over Latinos To Get There, He’ll Do It.” [American Bridge]

Sen. Ted Cruz

Claimed President Obama’s immigration actions are like “counterfeiting immigration papers, because there’s no legal authority to do what he’s doing.” [America’s Voice, 1/22/15]

Called DACA “lawless” and “wrong.” [America’s Voice, 9/9/14]

Supports Arizona’s radical anti-immigrant law: "The federal government is utterly failing to secure our borders.  When Arizona stepped in to address out-of-control illegal immigration, liberal groups attacked Arizona and the Obama Administration sued the State.” [Texas Tribune, 6/25/12]

Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier stated that Sen. Cruz's “top priority” is ending the deferred action program. [Politico, 7/16/14]

Said immigration bill “sets up affirmative action…for those who are here illegally.” [The National Review, 6/19/13]

Said Mitt Romney should end DACA, which would restart deportations of immigrants who came to the country as children. [Huffington Post, 8/28/12]

Mike Huckabee

Claimed President Obama’s executive actions are “wholly unconstitutional,” an “insult to the American people,” and like the “tyranny of King George.” [America’s Voice, 1/22/15]

Said we should focus on what to do about immigrants who are “rushing over because they've heard there’s a bowl of food just across the border.” [Bloomberg, 3/7/15]

Claimed some immigrants come to the U.S. just because they heard there’s "free food, free drivers licenses." [Think Progress, 3/7/15]

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

Said that some legal immigrants “want to come and, in some ways, they want to overturn our culture they want to come in and almost colonize our countries.” [MSNBC, 1/19/15]

Decried political incorrectness and multiculturalism and said of immigrants who do not embrace American exceptionalism, “that’s not immigration, that’s invasion.” [Right Wing Watch, 1/26/15]

Said: "There is nothing wrong with saying that English is our language, and we’re going to teach American exceptionalism to our children in civics. I’m tired of hyphenated Americans.” [Talking Points Memo, 2/26/15]

Suggested that the U.S. alter its immigration laws in order to reject Muslims who might “want to come and try to impose some variant of Sharia law.” [Mediaite, 3/18/15]

Called Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration “a cynical attempt to change the topic.” [Bloomberg, 11/20/14]

Sen. Rand Paul

Responding to an interview question after he ran away from DREAMers, Paul said: “I’ll be honest with you, I’m not interested in being filmed and berated by people [DREAMers] who broke the law and are here illegally to try and convince me about policy.” [Think Progress, 8/7/14]

Declared that he “would’ve voted ‘no’” on the DREAM Act. [Right Wing Watch, 4/15/15]

Said: “Washington liberals are trying to push through the so-called DREAM Act, which creates an official path to Democrat voter registration for 2 million college-age illegal immigrants.” [Salon, 8/25/14]

Equated President Obama’s immigration action with internment camps for the Japanese: “Think of what happened in World War II where they made the decision. The president issued an executive order. He said to Japanese people, ‘We’re going to put you in a camp. We’re going to take away all your rights and liberties and we’re going to intern you in a camp.’ We shouldn’t allow that much power to gravitate to one individual.” [MSNBC, 11/12/14]

Claimed birthright citizenship, as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, is turning the U.S. into “a magnet for the world” and lets “everybody come in here, have children and they all become citizens.” [Right Wing Watch, 4/15/15]

Said we ought to “fire the CBO” for finding that immigration reform reduces the deficit. [Right Wing Watch, 7/8/13]

Joked to Glenn Beck: “I’m thinking about lobbying to become an illegal immigrant so I don’t have to participate in Obamacare.” [Right Wing Watch, 6/26/13]

Claimed the U.S. “give[s] too great an incentive for illegal immigrants to cross our borders seeking these handouts.” [Rand Paul 2016, 5/5/10]

Said: “As a United States Senator, I will vote for any bill that strengthens border security, including the construction of a physical or electronic fence.” [Rand Paul 2016, 5/5/10]

Said: “I propose a ban on all taxpayer-funded services to illegal immigrants.  There are cities near our borders where illegal immigrants literally cross our borders simply to go to our schools and hospitals.  This travesty is wrong and must be stopped.” [Rand Paul 2016, 7/6/10]

Rick Perry

Said: “I think that the federal DREAM act is just amnesty and I’m not for amnesty.” [National Journal, 9/21/11]

Politifact called “pants on fire” on Perry’s claim that "over 3,000 homicides" were committed by "illegal aliens over the course of the last six years." [Politifact, 7/23/14]

Asserted that “if the federal government does not do its constitutional duty to secure the southern border of the United States, the state of Texas will do it!” [The Nation, 7/23/14]

Said: “When I’m the president of the United States, you’re not going to see me going after states like Arizona or Alabama, suing sovereign states for making decisions.” [America’s Voice, 1/22/15]

Marco Rubio

Declared that he “would love to defund the immigration order.” [America’s Voice, 12/15/14]

Referred to a path to citizenship as “code for amnesty” in 2010. [PBS, 9/13/14]

Said: "If you grant amnesty, as the governor proposes that we do, in any form, whether it's back of the line or so forth, you will destroy any chance we will ever have of having a legal immigration system that works here in America.” [Washington Post, 3/20/13]

Speaking to DREAMers, he said: “You’re doing harm to your own cause because you don’t have a right to illegally immigrate to the United States.” [America’s Voice, 8/26/14]

**Rubio once supported a path to citizenship through comprehensive immigration reform, but has since backpedalled significantly, believing that the Senate bill was a mistake. [Think Progress, 10/28/13]

Rick Santorum

Stated, “Yeah I would” veto the DREAM Act. [National Journal]

Said George Bush’s immigration reform plan in 2006 provided “incentives for illegal immigrants to raid the Social Security system and lie about their work history.” [America’s Voice, 1/22/15]

Said: “What Gov. Perry's done is he provided in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Maybe that was an attempt to attract the illegal vote–I mean, the Latino voters. But you attract Latino voters by talking about the importance of immigration. You talk about the importance of having English as the official language of this country.” [On the Issues]

Campaign ad said that “13 million illegal aliens were counting on” his opponent, Bob Casey. [America’s Voice,1/22/15]

Said that "you can't be here for 20 years and commit only one illegal act … because everything you're doing while you're here is against the law …" [Spencer Daily Reporter, 12/8/11]

Claimed: “When people tell me the problem is just illegal immigration, they’re wrong. They’re wrong…Part of the reason is that we’re bringing floods of legal, not illegal, legal immigrants into the country.” [America’s Voice, 1/22/15]

Scott Walker

Pushed to limit even legal immigration: “In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying, we will make adjustments…the more I’ve talked to folks – I’ve talked to Senator Sessions and others out there, but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today – is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.” [Journal Sentinel, 4/21/15]

Spoke out against a path to citizenship: “I don’t believe in amnesty.” [Slate, 3/1/15]

Supported Arizona’s extreme anti-immigrant law, SB 1070: "As governor, I will sign similar legislation to the Arizona law.” [The Cap Times, 11/11/10]

His 2011 budget ended a program that gave in-state college tuition to children of undocumented immigrants. [American Bridge]

Twice in four months, had to fire staff for anti-immigrant remarks including:

  • “I will choke that illegal Mex cleaning in the library.”
  • Referring to people on a bus trip: “Nobody speaks English & these people don’t know how 2 control their kids. #only3morehours #illegal aliens.”
  • “I see Satan” when I see undocumented immigrants. [American Bridge]

Current Members of Congress

Rep. Steve King (IA)

Claimed that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants are “130-pound” drug runners with “calves the size of cantaloupes.” [Right Wing Watch, 7/22/13

Compared immigrants to dogs when he “suggested America had the ‘pick of the litter’ when it comes to immigrants.” [Mediaite, 7/21/13]

Said that DREAMERs protesting at the right-wing Iowa Freedom Summit come from another planet. [Right Wing Watch, 1/24/15]

Compared the congressional GOP’s standoff with President Obama over immigration reform to the fight against ISIS, saying that the Republican caucus should be prepared to “use all the constitutional means at our disposal” and not take a government shutdown or impeachment proceedings off the table.” [Right Wing Watch, 11/20/14]

Suggested that Central American migrants who are apprehended at the southern border can be "delivered to the address of their choice" while they await a deportation hearing, and “that might be a crack house, it might be an MS13 house, it might be a cat house.” [Right Wing Watch, 8/4/14]

In a conversation about responding to the President’s immigration executive actions, Steve King said, “there’s probably no better time to fight than now and no better time to risk a government shutdown than now.” [Right Wing Watch, 12/10/14]

Told a story about going out with border patrol agents who would “catch and release” immigrants like a recreational fisher because they “like their jobs” and want to keep them. [Right Wing Watch, 3/6/14]

Said executive action by President Obama providing deportation relief for some undocumented immigrants living in the United States would perhaps irrevocably destroy “our constitutional republic” by turning the United States into a “lawless third-world nation” and Obama into a “king.” [Right Wing Watch, 10/22/14]

Claimed America is becoming “a third-world country” because of “the things that are coming at us from across the border,” including illegal drugs, Central American children of “prime gang recruitment age,” ISIS, a childhood respiratory illness that has spread in recent weeks, and the Ebola virus. [Right Wing Watch, 10/21/14]

Said undocumented immigrants who wish to join the military are “mercenaries” rather than “patriots.” [Right Wing Watch,4/28/14]

Claimed DREAM Act could lead to the end of the family as it would “equalize all parenthood and that means that you can’t let children be raised by a mom and a dad in a home.” [Right Wing Watch, 6/24/13]

Argued that the Senate’s immigration bill will do great damage to “American liberty” and “the underpinnings of the pillars of American exceptionalism.” Said undocumented immigrants and their children and grandchildren will “be taught to disrespect” the rule of law and collect tens of thousands of dollars in welfare benefits. [Right Wing Watch, 5/17/13]

Warned that immigration reform with a path to citizenship “destroys our republic.” [Right Wing Watch, 4/16/15]

Urging the GOP to “stick with” anti-immigration planks, King said, “I’m just no great fan of identity politics.” [Right Wing Watch, 4/16/15]

Rep. Mo Brooks (AL)

Said: “As your congressman on the house floor, I will do anything short of shooting…illegal aliens.” [Think Progress, 6/29/11]

Suggested Congress should pass a contempt citation against the president for his “reckless conduct,” and then Obama would drop his executive actions since he, like Richard Nixon, doesn’t want to “incur the wrath that comes with a contempt citation with potential fines and jail time.” [Right Wing Watch, 2/3/15]

Said: “At some point, you have to evaluate whether the president’s conduct aids or abets, encourages, or entices foreigners to unlawfully cross into the United States of America. That has a five-year in-jail penalty associated with it.” [Slate, 11/19/14]

Claimed Obama’s immigration actions are part of a plot to “dilute the vote of American citizens by bringing in millions of foreigners who are going to be dependent on welfare and handouts and hence will be dependent on the Democratic Party for their livelihoods.” [Right Wing Watch, 11/24/14]

Asserted that immigration reform is a “political power play” by Democrats to “dilute the voting power of Americans who are alive and voting today” and “change America as we know it.” [Right Wing Watch, 9/19/14]

Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX)

Claimed that “the penetration of criminals and terrorists across our southern border” represents a threat to the U.S. comparable to the threat of a nuclear strike from Iran against Israel. [Right Wing Watch, 7/30/14]

Called President Obama’s immigration policy the real “war on women” because it allowed immigrants to cross the border to rape women. [Right Wing Watch, 7/30/14]

“Texas and the United States is [sic] being invaded and we’re in danger,” Gohmert said, before alleging that most of the unaccompanied minors are lying when they tell border patrol agents that they are escaping gang violence in Central America and have been coached to make such claims. [Right Wing Watch, 7/30/14]

Accused Obama of bringing in central American immigrants to vote illegally for Democrats. [Right Wing Watch,7/8/14]

Implied that President Obama was orchestrating the child migrant crisis in order to recruit millions of people to cast fraudulent ballots for Democrats and seize Texas from Republican control. [Right Wing Watch, 7/8/14]

Rep. Lou Barletta (PA)

Said that policies friendly to undocumented immigrants "reward people who want to tear down our laws and make us a third-world country." [Right Wing Watch, 4/14/14]

Compared the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country to the 9/11 terrorists. [Right Wing Watch,4/10/14]

Rep. Trent Franks (AZ)

Asserted that Obama’s immigration executive actions “literally could be the death of the Republic.” [Right Wing Watch, 12/3/14]

Wrote that “Arizona took a necessary step” in passing the extreme anti-immigrant law, S.B. 1070. [The Hill, 6/25/10]

Rep. Lamar Smith (TX)

Said the “extreme fringe of the Democratic Party” is supporting an executive action providing deportation relief to some undocumented immigrants because it “wants to treat those from other countries better than we treat our own American citizens” and ultimately is “banking” on the votes of new immigrants. [Right Wing Watch, 11/18/14]

Expressed dismay at undocumented immigrants joining the military and cited a disputed study to claim that the Obama administration is “aiding and abetting crimes in America by intentionally releasing illegal aliens back into our communities.”[Right Wing Watch, 4/10/14]

Sen. David Perdue (GA)                    

Said: “If you look at the legal immigration problem, it may be as big or bigger than the illegal problem.” [Right Wing Watch, 11/20/14]

Rep. Walter Jones (NC)

Claimed that Republicans have “constitutional duty” to impeach Obama because of his immigration executive actions. [Right Wing Watch, 2/11/15]

Rep. John Fleming (LA)

Said that unlike “the way it worked traditionally in America,” today’s immigrants “come from countries where they look to the government, that’s their tradition is that the government takes care of them.” [Right Wing Watch, 12/9/14]

Sen. Tom Coburn (OK)

Predicted that because of the President’s executive actions, “you're going to see — hopefully not — but you could see instances of anarchy. … You could see violence.” [USA Today, 11/20/14]

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (GA)

When a constituent asked whether the U.S. should put explosive devices on the border to prevent immigration, Rep. Loudermilk laughed off the question and said that he opposed the idea "because there’s a lot of Americans who work [there] and kids around the border as well.” [Right Wing Watch, 2/25/15]

Rep. Frank Wolf (VA)

Said terrorists are crossing America’s southern border thanks to President Obama’s supposed refusal to administer immigration law. [Right Wing Watch, 8/6/14]

Rep. Mike Kelly (PA)

Claimed Obama’s immigration actions will push the country into an “internal crisis” not seen since the days leading up to the Civil War. [Right Wing Watch, 11/19/14]

Rep. Jody Hice (GA)

Suggested that people might have to take up arms in response to “a government that refuses to secure our borders.” [Right Wing Watch, 7/22/14]

Rep. Barbara Comstock (VA)

Said we can track immigrants just like “Fedex can track packages coming” into the country. [People For the American Way, 9/25/14]

Current State Elected Officials

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach

Claimed it’s possible that a Hispanic majority in the U.S. could conduct an “ethnic cleansing.” [Right Wing Watch, 11/20/14]

Said the military would “put aside” its high standards by admitting DREAMers. [Right Wing Watch, 6/5/14]

Claimed immigration advocates are like the KKK, “just not wearing white cloaks.” [Right Wing Watch, 6/18/13]

Texas State Rep. Tony Tinderholt

Said “we are being thieved” by undocumented immigrants who are “taking the lifeblood of our country.” Immigrants want a better life, “but that better life for them is free stuff.” [Right Wing Watch, 9/22/14]

Maryland County Council Member and Christian Reconstructionist Michael Peroutka

Asserted that Obama’s immigration action “certainly is an act of treason because it’s aiding and abetting the enemies of America and giving them comfort and aid.” [Right Wing Watch, 11/21/14]

Tamara Scott, Iowa RNC Committeewoman

Said child migrants from Central America may have been “highly trained as warriors” and could “rise up against” U.S. citizens. [Right Wing Watch, 8/22/14]

Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Claimed that the media and the administration are suppressing photos of child migrants and the families at the border because they are actually teenage “gangbangers.” [Right Wing Watch, 6/20/14]

Said: “The White House is incompetent and the dumping of illegals is intentional.” [Right Wing Watch, 6/20/14]

Former Elected Officials and Candidates

Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN)

Said that if President Obama were to take executive action to prevent the deportation of some undocumented immigrants living in the United States, his goal would be to “flood our nation with millions of sure-thing Democrat [sic] voters” who would rely on “the United States government as their source of supply.” [Right Wing Watch, 10/31/14]

Claimed: “Our pockets are being picked and innocent people are being killed by illegal aliens and hurt and robbed and beaten and raped by criminal foreign nationals that are in our country.” [Right Wing Watch, 8/5/14]

Said that illegal immigration is a “war against the American people.” [Right Wing Watch, 8/5/14]

Asked: “When are we going to get serious and really deport and deport right on the border?” [Right Wing Watch, 8/5/14]

Claimed that Obama is deliberately inviting child migrants into the country in order to establish a Democratic voting bloc and begin “transforming America into a Marxist economic model.” [Right Wing Watch, 7/25/14]

Said immigration reform “means you don’t have a future and a hope.” [Right Wing Watch, 8/5/13]

Former Rep. Steve Stockman (MI)

Called the influx of Central American child refugees at the southern border an “invasion of our nation.” [Right Wing Watch, 7/16/14]

Explained, “There are more people coming across the border than those we sent in invasion of France” in World War II. [Right Wing Watch, 7/16/14]

Claimed Obama “basically told everybody in Mexico our doors are open, come up, come up, please,” and that they’re “all going to have a great time because y’all are going to be legal.” “He’s going to be the President of the United States and Mexico. [Right Wing Watch, 5/17/13]

Said immigration reform would only help Obama in his plan to “destroy America.” [Right Wing Watch, 4/16/13]

Former Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst

Referring to the “tsunami of unaccompanied children,” and the President’s executive actions, Dewhurst said that “If we don’t stop the bad guys at the border, they’re going to be in your hometown tomorrow.” [Right Wing Watch, 9/26/14]

Claimed that unaccompanied minors fleeing drug-related violence in Central America are just a distraction engineered by President Obama: “This whole conversation about the unaccompanied children, ladies and gentlemen, this is a mirage, it is a public relations effort, this is an effort by the Obama administration to divert your attention.” [Right Wing Watch, 9/9/14]

Former Sen. Candidate and Rep. Paul Broun (GA)

Announced that the only immigration law he wants is one “that makes English the official language of America.” [Right Wing Watch, 2/24/14]

Said comprehensive immigration reform would be “disastrous for Republicans” and “disastrous for anybody who is freedom-loving.” [Right Wing Watch, 2/24/14]

Asserted that if the House GOP compromises at all on immigration, “America, economically, is doomed because we cannot afford to put these people on government largesse.” [Right Wing Watch, 8/9/13]

Former Rep. Allen West (FL)

Claimed that President Obama intends to “flood the country with illegals,” whom he suggested are to blame for a respiratory disease outbreak among children, despite having no evidence to substantiate his claim. [Right Wing Watch, 10/3/14]

Former Pres. Candidate Alan Keyes

Accused the president of “importing” undocumented immigrants “in order to facilitate what I think is an overthrow of our Constitution.” [Right Wing Watch, 12/11/14]

Former AK Sen. Candidate Joe Miller

Said immigration will hurt the “integrity” of the population and destroy the second amendment. [Right Wing Watch, 3/3/15]

Former Pres. Candidate Donald Trump

Said: “Now especially with Ebola, how about when that starts happening down in that area and people just walk into the country.” [Right Wing Watch, 10/16/14]

Former Pres. Candidate, CO Gov. Candidate, and Rep. Tom Tancredo (CO)

Responding to the crisis of Central American refugees at the southern border, suggested Obama should “sign an executive order saying all these people ought to be returned. Put them on buses or planes, send them back to the countries from which they came and have the governments there take care of it.” Added that the child migrant crisis  is “all part of a plan” by President Obama to “fundamentally transform America.” [Right Wing Watch, 7/11/14]

Former AZ Gov. Candidate Andrew Thomas

Campaign ad boasts he is “the only candidate who stopped illegal immigration,” and he promises that as governor he will stop illegal immigration again  “before it’s too late.” [Right Wing Watch, 7/23/14]

Former Sen. Jim DeMint (SC)

On immigration reform, claimed Democrats “are much more interested in new voters and union members than they are in fixing the system and honoring our heritage of immigration.” [Right Wing Watch, 1/30/13]

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