The immigration debate has historically been laced with racist and antisemitic rhetoric and conspiracy theories. These poisonous ideas are center stage in the drive to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Impeachment proponents in Congress accuse Mayorkas of deliberately inviting an immigrant invasion. This draws directly from the “Great Replacement” theory, which explains demographic change as a plot against white people, often instigated by Jews to undermine white dominance and usurp power.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote the impeachment resolution accusing Mayorkas of failing in his duty to “prevent invasion” and the “willful admittance of border crossers.” Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green (R-TN) and House Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-LA) claim that Secretary Mayorkas is intentionally encouraging more immigration. Nefarious “intent” is a key feature of replacement theory – the conspiratorial idea that immigrants are lured to the United States to dominate and reshape American culture and politics. As Rep. Randy Weber said, “A full-blown invasion. America will be unrecognizable…..”
It’s one thing to wage an aggressive political fight. But deploying a hateful conspiracy theory against a man who is, not just the first Latino or refugee to hold the office, but one whose family story is intertwined with the Jewish flight from persecution and with our country’s heritage as a nation of immigrants. His mother and her parents fled from Romania to France, and then to Cuba. When he was just one, Mayorkas and his parents fled Cuba for the U.S. after the Castro revolution.
All this against the backdrop of a presumptive nominee for president repeatedly accusing immigrants of “poisoning the blood of our country” – the same trope used to rally Germans against Jews in order to “protect their own blood.” This racialized hatred dehumanized Jews and helped everyday Germans to tolerate the systematic murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust.
I was a Jewish boy marked for death in Nazi occupied Poland and was taken in by my Polish Catholic nanny who concealed my identity and saved me from sharing the fate of the six million Jews, including one and half million children, who were murdered by the Nazis. Hate and dehumanization can spread across a society and can corrupt and destroy democracy if we don’t heed the warning signs.
You don’t have to be a Holocaust survivor like me to be concerned. Before he opened fire killing 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, shouting “All Jews must die” the shooter had just posted: “HIAS (a Jewish refugee resettlement organization) likes to bring invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” The murderer who shot at a synagogue in Poway, CA claimed that Jews were responsible for the genocide of “white Europeans.” Mayorkas has publicly warned against the growth of conspiracy and hate fueled extremist violence.
At heart, I’ve lived as an optimist with faith in the resilience of democracy and in the conscience of good people. But today, I am worried. When an antisemitic, anti-immigrant conspiracy is evoked to take down a Jewish public servant, who served on the board of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the same organization that helped bring my own family to the U.S. after the Holocaust, the same organization evoked by the perpetrator of the largest antisemitic attack in U.S. history, my antennae go up.
I know that, for many, the drive to impeach Mayorkas is about politics. Restoring order to our borders is an issue worthy of robust debate and we expect politicians to disagree. But when those politics traffic in conspiracies, like “the great replacement,” which drives real world violence against Jews and other groups, history calls on us to take notice, to speak up and to vigorously defend Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas and our democracy. It’s time to stop this dangerous charade.Leave a comment