Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant nationalism has positioned him far to the right of his fellow 2016 GOP hopefuls and has given him a serious boost in the polls. Such support for a man who made, and repeatedly defended, the patently racist claim that undocumented Mexican immigrants are “rapists” should serve as a clear indicator of the depth of American nativism among much of the populace. The real estate mogul turned Republican presidential candidate’s words are so distasteful that even former Texas Governor Rick Perry, a man known for being particularity tough on illegal immigration, was offended by them. But while Perry and others might try to distance themselves from Trump’s bigoted remarks, their own positions on the immigration issue align them more closely with Trump than they realize. A massive, bureaucratized and restrictive immigration system is part of each and every candidate’s platform. Only their methods differ. And they are minor differences at that.
Anti-immigrant sentiment has found a home in political platforms across the nation and on both sides of the aisle. One such politician is Wisconsin Governor and 2016 Republican candidate Scott Walker. Walker is, like his peers, an absolute disaster in nearly every respect. In typical Republican form, Walker cries out that “government is too big” while simultaneously supporting “right-to-work” laws, bans on abortions after twenty weeks, and a massive federal immigration apparatus.
As detestable as some of these other viewpoints are, his stance on trans-national migration evinces an even more pronounced conflict between his self-professed love of liberty. Not only does Walker advocate traditional Republican nativist busybodism – a border fence, national ID system, substantially increased ICE presence – he actually agrees with Trump that the federal government should restrict legal immigration during times of economic hardship. He claimed in an interview with Glenn Beck that American immigration policy should be directed toward “protecting American workers and American wages”. Unflinching nationalistic populism like this would make a great deal of sense coming from Bernie Sanders, but an anti-labor conservative professing to be interested in protecting American workers and wages is almost certainly Walker’s rhetorical attempt to whitewash his corporatist intent.
It’s important to keep in in mind that Walker is no fringe candidate. He’s not a proud member of the Constitution Party, and he’s yet to express interest in the American Third Position. Neither is he an eccentric billionaire with more money than sense and the freedom to spew hate without having to fear career ruination. He is a widely-respected establishment politician who has won the gubernatorial election in a highly contentious swing state twice. He has accrued financial support from “liberty-minded” individuals like the Koch brothers, and has managed to accomplish many of his short and long-term campaign goals. Yet his immigration platform is almost indistinguishable from that of a man who claims that Latin American immigration naturally leads to the importation of crime, drugs, and rape.
This fact elucidates both the intrinsic connection between nationalism and right-wing protectionism, and the duplicitous nature of electoral politicking. A serial candidate with no realistic shot of winning who screams his incendiary beliefs on live television is called out as a fringe rider, but a serious contender who hides what are essentially the same beliefs behind an appeal to the working class is left relatively unchallenged. As an anarchist and radical critic of state authority, I reject outright the idea that Scott Walker’s preferred expression of border authoritarianism is any less reactionary than Donald Trump’s. The systematic racism, misogyny, queerphobia, and transantagonism that fuels immigration restrictions is not rendered less appalling when those who favor ramping-up security at the border articulate their stance in a way that doesn’t ring too many bells. Nothing less than the complete and total abolition of state created borders will curb these problems. But don’t count on any of the dozens of politicians currently vying for the White House to call for an easing of (let alone an end to) border restrictions. They will ensure that America’s totalitarian immigration regime is ramped up.