As President Joe Biden signed executive orders on Tuesday that will reportedly reverse some of former President Donald Trump’s heinous immigration policies, it was a reminder that while Trump is gone, it will take America longer to disentangle itself from Trumpism. Just look at Arizona.
While Trump is gone, it will take America longer to disentangle itself from Trumpism.
Much of the Arizona GOP is affirming its loyalty to Trumpism. On Jan. 27, a Republican lawmaker introduced a bill to give the GOP-controlled Legislature the power to toss out election results any time before the presidential inauguration. Two of Arizona’s members of Congress, Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, are under scrutiny for their ties to extremist groups.
This all comes on the heels of the state party’s censure of high-profile Arizona Republicans including Cindy McCain, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Gov. Doug Ducey. The rationale? A grab bag of grievances that boil down to not being in total lockstep with Trump orthodoxy. As The Arizona Republic's E.J. Montini mused: “Republicans no longer want Republicans in the Arizona Republican Party.”
Arizona is not alone in contending with a Trump-wing takeover of its state party. Pennsylvania’s GOP has taken a MAGA turn; all but one of the state’s Republican U.S. House members voted to invalidate the state’s Electoral College votes. In Oregon, the party passed a resolution condemning the 10 GOP representatives who voted for impeachment, declaring the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol a “false flag” operation. A Hawaii GOP official resigned after sending “unauthorized” tweets supporting QAnon followers.
But Arizona is particularly interesting because in 2020, for the first time in 24 years, the state swung blue in a presidential election. And the forces behind that shift are incredibly telling. Biden’s victory was the product of a 10-year Latino-led organizing effort rooted in response to years of Republican-led anti-immigrant initiatives. Arizona was once the land of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his tent cities and SB 1070 (the state’s “show me your papers” law) and where Trump delivered his 2016 hate-laced immigration speech.
Since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, more than 9,000 Arizona Republicans have changed their party registration.
The state’s electoral rejection of Trump is a warning to Republicans about the perils of allowing nativists to run the show. In a different environment, the state’s GOP leaders would be figuring out how to appeal to Latino voters and suburban women. Instead, they’re doubling down on the extremism that helped motivate those very voters to turn against the GOP. And for that, they’re paying a price. Since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, more than 9,000 Arizona Republicans have changed their party registration.
At the same time that Arizona Republicans are censuring members for crimes such as “supporting globalist policies,” immigration is back in the national spotlight. Some prominent Republicans have already expressed their unwillingness to negotiate on Biden’s larger immigration proposal. If that is a nonstarter, Biden says he is open to pursuing a piecemeal approach. No matter the exact path forward, immigration will be front and center. Fixing this broken system is a critical rebuke of Trumpism.
MAGA affiliated leaders will reject any effort that is fair and humane. Centering efforts on a pathway for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program recipients, essential workers or any of the other millions of undocumented immigrants in this country is an implicit recognition that America benefits greatly from welcoming them. That’s in direct conflict with these leaders' white nationalist roots, and robs MAGA Republicans of the core fear they peddle: the threat of the other.
And just as the “big lie” behind “stop the steal” is based, as Kimberly Atkins points out, on smaller lies about voter fraud that the GOP has told for years, so too Trump’s immigration policies are predicated on falsehoods about the ties between immigration, crime and security that have been allowed to fester over decades.
In reality, it’s those lies that actually make America less safe. Again, just look at Arizona: Arpaio’s anti-immigrant fixation led to his overseeing what the Department of Justice called the “worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history.” And his department was so focused on immigrants that they failed to investigate hundreds of sex crimes.
For Republicans and Democrats alike, overhauling immigration is a chance to tell the truth. Fix a system that demands fixing. Support a pathway to citizenship, a policy that a majority of Americans support. It’s time to admit that the resistance to reform is not actually about America’s safety and security, that it never has been. It’s time to show Americans that the things they have been told to fear were always just big lies.