On Monday morning, the president tweeted:
The likely inspiration for this tweet was a segment of Fox & Friends, one of the president’s favorite shows, that aired earlier in the day where a guest linked the migrants to ISIS and the Taliban. ABC News, which has a team in Mexico, found no “Middle Easterners” among the migrants.
Leaving aside the factual question, the linkage of Latin American immigration with terrorism is an old Republic trope, one that goes back to at least the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and has been constantly revived since. In 2014, Tom Cotton, then running for Senator of Arkansas, exploited this alleged threat. “Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico who have clearly shown they’re willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism,” he told a town-hall. “They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas.” Cotton would go on to win the election.
As New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik notes, Trump himself indulged in this sort of scare-mongering in 2014.
Xenophobic conspiracy mongering paid off big for the Republican Party in the 2014 midterms. Facing a more difficult electoral terrain in 2018, they are hoping it’ll work again.