EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Right-wing candidates are increasingly calling the migrant surge at the southern border an invasion so they can scare voters into casting ballots for them in November, immigrant advocates said in a teleconference Tuesday.

One group, the Washington, D.C.-based America’s Voice, says it has tracked 130 ads by Republican candidates for public office characterizing asylum-seekers as invaders and potential criminals and peddling the idea of a Democrat ploy to replace white voters with incoming minorities.

“We have been tracking racist advertising by GOP candidates and it is alarming and stunning,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice. “What was once something you would hear from the fringes of the far-right regarding immigrants and immigration has now become a centerpiece of the GOP electoral strategy.”

The group keeps a data base of Republican social media posts and political advertising, including:

“Our Southern border is under attack. The Biden administration and the radical left are threatening the safety and security of Americans by promoting open-border policies that allow for an invasion of criminals to flood into our country.” – Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz.

“Invasion means war. It’s time to fight back.” – Texas Senate candidate Brandon Creighton.

The ads not only disparage and “demonize” migrants that include asylum-seekers and members of vulnerable social groups, but also could inspire violence against any people of color, the activists said.

“As an immigrant myself, I know how dangerous this rhetoric is,” said Juanita Monsalve, senior marketing and creative director for United We Dream Action. “(It) has real-life consequences. We saw that earlier this year at a grocery store in Buffalo and in 2019 with the shooting in El Paso. In both instances, the shooters were motivated by antiimmigrant rhetoric.”

In the Aug. 3, 2019, mass shooting in El Paso, the accused killer allegedly posted an online manifesto hours before the attack bemoaning the Hispanic invasion of Texas, recalls Fernando Garcia, executive director of El Paso’s Border Network for Human Rights.

“Trump officials were calling Mexicans criminals and starting the ‘invasion’ rhetoric that inspired the killer in El Paso. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other GOP (officials) are describing immigration in Texas as an invasion and criminals crossing the border,” Garcia said, accusing the governor of “weaponizing” immigration for political gain through Operation Lone Star.

The activists on Tuesday called on immigration advocates and on Democrats to push back against candidates who seek to get elected through fear and xenophobia.

Irene Armendariz-Jackson (KTSM photo)

But one Texas Republican candidate said her peers are merely “calling it like it is” on a border where she says President Joe Biden has opened the flood gates. “If you look at the ads on social media, you will see this long string of comments from Americans frustrated and appalled by this situation,” said Irene Armendariz-Jackson, a candidate for the 16th Congressional District in Texas.

She said El Paso’s Border Patrol Central Processing Center is currently at three times its capacity, migrants are crossing en masse to El Paso from Juarez, Mexico, and released onto the streets days later.

“I just came from the airport and saw at least six groups of people who didn’t seem to have identification but just a see-through bag with a yellow folder. As an American citizen, when I get on a plane, I have to show identification, show credentials of who I am and yet that security measure is completely disregarded to allow who-knows-who to come into our country and be flown anywhere they want in the United States,” Armendariz-Jackson said. “As an American, as the wife of a former Border Patrol agent, it’s unrealistic and offensive for groups to say that this illegal immigration and this invasion is not real.”