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Trump Again Demonizes Migrants for “Poisoning Our Country”

Trump visits the US-Mexico border in Texas on Feb. 29, 2024.Eric Gay/AP

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Donald Trump called into Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on Monday night, where the two talked about the biggest topic in political media: Joe Biden’s shockingly bad performance at the recent presidential debate and the future of Biden’s reelection bid. After about 10 minutes, however, Hannity teed up a familiar dark theme for Trump. It was time to talk about the border.

Hannity warned of a “a clear and present danger” from what he claimed are “nearly 11 million unvetted Joe Biden illegal immigrants” inside the country. “The likelihood that terrorist cells are probably already here is very high,” he said, blaming Democrats. “I’m worried about our national security like never before.”

Trump responded by reciting a claim he attributed to Hannity: “It’s one hundred percent certain that we’re going to have a terror attack.” Trump said he agreed with that assessment and then expanded on it:

We’re letting terrorists into our country at a level that we’ve never seen before. Terrorists are coming in and they’re coming in, Sean, from mental institutions and insane asylums. They’re coming in from prisons and jails, from all over the world…and they’re pouring into our country as prisoners, as mental patients, they’re coming into our country, and they’re coming in also as terrorists, and this is poisoning our country.

Immigration is a top issue for voters, and Trump’s unsubstantiated smears against migrants clearly are aimed at motivating his base. But his demagoguery is also part of a long campaign of thinly veiled incitement—one that increases the risk of political violence at the hands of Trump’s extremist supporters. For years, Trump has used this method, known to national security experts as stochastic terrorism, against an array of purported political enemies. With the help of Fox pundits, migrants have been on Trump’s list ever since he entered the 2016 presidential race. As I reported in late June:

Among Trump’s many targets over the years have been immigrants, journalists, judges, and law enforcement officials. Threats and violence have followed. Proving a direct connection is all but impossible—and that’s the point, the madness in the method, so to speak. But in various cases a connection also isn’t difficult to see: a mass shooter claiming to be motivated by a migrant “invasion,” after Trump and his Fox News allies hyped such fears. A sharp rise in death threats against journalists, after Trump and his advisers blasted the media as the “enemy of the American people.” A thwarted attack by a Trump supporter on an FBI field office, after Trump let loose over the Mar-a-Lago raid and after his ally Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona said, “We must destroy the FBI.”

Previously, Trump used Nazi-style rhetoric to declare that those he views as political enemies “live like vermin within the confines of our country” and that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” Behavioral research shows that fueling political anger with disgust and contempt produces a potent hatred that increases the likelihood of violence.

Senior law enforcement officials and security experts told me recently that extremist violence stemming from white supremacist groups and Trump’s MAGA movement are a top concern headed toward the November election. How might some fanatical Trump followers react to the relentless message that a horde of migrants is poised to attack?

 “We’re gonna have to get these criminals,” Trump further told Hannity on Monday, calling them “very high level” and “very bad” to emphasize the alleged danger. “We’re gonna get ’em out. We’re gonna have the largest deportation in our history.”

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