Republicans are using anti-migrant rhetoric to redirect focus away from other issues before midterms, experts say.

Some send thousands of migrants on buses and planes to Democratic-run states. Others air incendiary advertisements, calling migrants “invaders” and “criminals”, or pledge to invoke war powers to accelerate their expulsion.

As United States voters prepare to cast their ballots in critical midterm elections in November, Republicans have put immigration, as well as record-high numbers of arrivals at the country’s southern border, into sharp focus.

Political analysts say this Republican push is an effort to draw focus away from abortion rights, healthcare, and the environment – important concerns for Americans, and ones with which the party is less likely to win favour with voters.

“Republicans are looking to immigration as their saviour from other issues on which they think they’re losing,” said David Bier, associate director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank.

“But immigration is also a real issue for them, where they have ideas about what they want to do if they were to get the authority,” Bier told Al Jazeera.

Escalated rhetoric

In April, the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, began sending asylum seekers who arrived in his state by bus to Washington, DC, New York and Chicago to draw attention to high numbers of migrants crossing the southern border, which he has blamed on the policies of Democratic President Joe Biden.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey later joined the effort, followed by the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, who in mid-September put nearly 50 migrants on a plane to a wealthy island in Massachusetts.

Rights groups have slammed the practice, calling it political theatre and a cruel attempt to rally voters around immigration in advance of the November 8 midterms. Meanwhile, migrant advocates have mapped out hundreds of Republican election advertisements that have used terms such as “invasion” and “replacement” to refer to migrants.


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