The Republican conflation of immigration and ISIS

You can learn a lot from the words politicians use, and even more from the words they don’t. At last night’s Republican debate, candidates and moderators mentioned “immigration” 27 times. No surprise there. It may the single biggest issue in the GOP race. The word “Mexican,” however, wasn’t mentioned once, even though in recent years Mexicans have constituted America’s largest immigrant group. Neither did anyone mention “Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese or El Salvadoran,” the other most common nationalities of recent immigrants. “Latino” was never mentioned. Neither was “Asian.” “Hispanic” was mentioned once.

“Muslim,” by contrast, was mentioned 15 times, often preceded by the adjective “radical.” The word “Islam” was cited nine times. “ISIS” came up a whopping 45 times.

This is partly because the candidates were asked about events in the Middle East. But it’s also because they repeatedly turned questions about immigration into questions about Muslims and ISIS. A Mexican American businesswoman asked Ben Carson, “If America does not seem like a welcoming place for immigrant entrepreneurs, will the American economy suffer?” Carson replied that, “We have to be intelligent about the way that we form our immigration policies, and that’s one of the reasons that I have called on us to declare war on the Islamic State because we need to reorient our immigration policies and our visa policies for people who are coming into this country because there are many people out there who want to destroy us.”