April 2, 2018 – When news broke of a “caravan” of peaceful Central American migrants marching toward Mexico and the United States, anti-immigrant activists and hate groups went on high alert and began a concerted effort to demonize the marchers and harass the organizers. President Trump quickly displaced his Easter Sunday message with a string of attacks on the migrants, who are seeking political asylum as they flee persecution and human rights violations in their countries of origin.
The President didn’t see it that way, and turned to his favorite news program, “Fox and Friends,” which tweeted a brief video interview with race-baiting correspondent Tomi Lahren, titled “Caravan of Illegal Immigrants Headed to U.S.”
Less than an hour later, Trump weighed in, announcing the border was “Getting more dangerous, ‘caravans’ coming,” and as a result there would be “NO MORE DACA DEAL!” Trump wrote. “Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough [immigration] laws.”
A half-hour later, the president threatened NAFTA negotiations and wrote “NEED WALL!”
Meanwhile, the radical right was busy creating a troll storm buttressed by popular right wing websites like Hotair.com, which warned that “An Army of Illegal Aliens is Marching on America.” By Saturday afternoon, the hashtag, #stopthecaravan was trending on Twitter. The SPLC hate tracker, which automatically detects trends among a population of far-right Twitter accounts, registered #stopthecaravan as trending.
Also on Saturday, the neo-Nazi Website, Daily Stormer, warned of “Brown Hordes on the Move,” and provided a phone number urging readers to call the White House. After Trump’s tweets, the Daily Stormer posted a follow-up article on Sunday arguing that the president “has at least heard us.”
The notorious hate site Stormfront warned of “an avalanche of mud” heading for the U.S. border. As one poster on the neo-Nazi forum put it, “We should exercise our second amendment rights and meet them at the border, guns in hand.”
Other racists began “doxing” the organizers of the migrant march. On The Right Stuff forum, Michael Peinovich posted an urgent request for readers to call the White House and a poster in the thread put up the contact information for the group organizing the caravan, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, urging its racist followers to email them. Others encouraged readers to attack the group’s Facebook page. On Peinovich’s Twitter feed, he retweeted a post with the contact information for the group, including phone numbers and emails. In the same thread, a Twitter user named “Frex” posted Pueblos Sin Fronteras organizer Alex Mensing’s Facebook page, including photos of his family, writing, “Now is the time to go out and mine all his social media before he goes private.”
Threats began coming in to Mensing’s email account by Sunday morning, he told the Intelligence Project.
Both national and local anti-immigrant groups are also seizing the moment. Jeff Schwilk, a former leader in the Minuteman movement who now runs the anti-immigrant hate group San Diegans for Secure Borders sent an email to his supporters writing, “Obviously this is a coordinated, organized effort by foreign criminals and open border operatives to try to infiltrate our sovereign nation.”
Despite Trump’s outrage, this is not an invasion of “bad hombres,” and not a novel occurrence. In fact, the caravan, in its fifth year, is made up of “people who were forced to flee their countries of origin due to persecution and violence,” says Pueblo sin Fronteras. The last march in 2017 drew 450 participants and only a handful have been granted asylum in the U.S. This year more than 80 percent of those setting out on the 2,000-mile trek are from Honduras, a country rife with political unrest. Organizers say that many of the marchers are women and children, and range in age from just a month old to well into their 70s.
As Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs Luis Videgaray Caso tweeted in response to Trump’s anti-immigrant ravings, “Every day Mexico and the US work together on migration throughout the region. Facts clearly reflect this,” he said. “An inaccurate news report should not serve to this question cooperation. Upholding human dignity and rights is not at odds with the rule of law. Happy Easter.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch is a blog that monitors and exposes the activities of the American radical right. www.splcenter.org/hatewatch