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Tilting at Windmills

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July 2, 2010

BREWER WARNS OF IMMIGRANTS AND 'BEHEADINGS'.... Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) continues to try to defend her anti-immigrant policies, and isn't above using shameless demagoguery to scare people into agreeing with her.

In an interview on Fox News last week, for example, she claimed: "We cannot afford all this illegal immigration and everything that comes with it, everything from the crime and to the drugs and the kidnappings and the extortion and the beheadings ..."

There's no better way, it seems, to make the case for strict anti-immigration laws than to claim that undocumented immigrants are pouring into the country to decapitate innocent Americans. But just because she says it on television doesn't make it true.

Brewer didn't just slip up; she seems to seriously believe immigrants who've entered the U.S. illegally are engaged in "beheadings." Offered a chance to walk it back on a local public affairs show this week, Brewer insisted that there have been "bodies in the desert ... that have been beheaded." When told that media research could find no such incidents, the governor didn't care.

Eventually, a spokesperson for Brewer said that the Arizona governor may not have been referring to incidents in Arizona, but could have meant illegal immigrants beheading people in other states.

First, Brewer was clearly talking about Arizona. Second, there aren't reports of beheading in other border states, either. Third, this is probably the most unpersuasive spin I've heard since the RNC spokesperson tried to explain Michael Steele rejecting the RNC's line on Afghanistan.

There's no great mystery here. For Republicans like Jan Brewer, the goal is to literally terrify the American public. In this case, that means connecting illegal immigration to images Americans have seen of terrorists beheading the innocent, and hoping people are confused enough to miss the distinction between a Mexican worker, hoping to provide for his/her family, and members of al Qaeda.

But trying to connect crime to immigration problems is a losing proposition.

Steve Benen 1:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Not only that, but nothing says "come vacation and spend money in our state" to tourists like the appeal of "we have lots of crime! And beheadings!"

Posted by: Catsy on July 2, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Don't be naive! Are you suggesting that it's literally impossible for an illegal immigrant to behead someone? With all the gardening implements they have access to??

Posted by: Grumpy on July 2, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Brewer didn't just slip up; she seems to seriously believe immigrants who've entered the U.S. illegally are engaged in "beheadings."

Come on now, get some perspective. The powers-that-be have found a willing agent in Arizona, who is more than happy to proffer illegal immigrants as the bogeyman.

In a time of massive unemployment, loss of retirement savings, and generally dark clouds over once-bright hopes and dreams, Brewer et al. are merely using illegal immigrants as the poster-people of what which is the cause of all our sorrows.

Surely, illegal immigrants caused unemployment, they stole our retirement savings, and they are all criminals. Used to take the target off the corporist's backs, off of those greedy merchants of privilege who desperately need to have someone else be the bad guy.

Posted by: terraformer on July 2, 2010 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Not right Steve. There have been a number of beheadings in Mexico during the recent escalation of the Drug War. La Familia for instance announced its formation by leaving a handful of severed heads on the floor of a local nightclub.

Posted by: MNPundit on July 2, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry accidentally hit post. To continue: My point is that Brewer did not make these events out of whole cloth to terrify people of Latino immigrants. They are happening. She did however take the tiny kernel of truth and made it a big honking lie.

Posted by: MNPundit on July 2, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Also, Brewer said that she heard from a friend of a friend that there was this guy who woke up in a tub full of ice and his kidney had been removed! By illegal immigrants!

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 2, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

I have always feared that a second Great Depression would cause this country to slide into fascism. Sadly, my prediction is looking pretty good these days.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on July 2, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

I wish I could say this was unprecedented, but it's not. Check out Canadian nutty windbag Hedy Fry raving about crosses being burned on lawns in Prince George, British Columbia - something that just never happened.


I've been to Prince George a couple of times, and I'd be the first to agree that as a logging town, it can be a little rough. But cross-burnings? Please.

Keep in mind that Doctor Fry (yes, she's actually a doctor) isn't just your garden-variety whacko who stumbled into public office on a wave of the-other-candidate-is-worse. She was a Cabinet Minister from 1996 to 2002 (Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women)and at the time this incident occurred.

When you become lulled into a perception that the people you're speaking to are too dumb or lazy to fact-check, it's amazing what can come out of your mouth. What's more amazing is the people who stick with the story even after it's evident that people are following up, and the embarrassment potential is quickening. Remember Dick Cheney?

Hold Brewer's feet to the fire, boys. And that's only because you're not allowed to burn her headfirst.

Posted by: Mark on July 2, 2010 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

MNPundit: Is Mexico one of our states having an influx of illegal immigrants? Of what part of the world are you a pundit? Or are you confused between our state of New Mexico and the sovereign nation of Mexico, south of the border?

Posted by: Carol on July 2, 2010 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

I don't mean to be annoying, but what the hell is a handful of heads? Are they shrunken heads? Do you have a brain in your head?

Posted by: Carol on July 2, 2010 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Carol -

Not to put words into MNPundit's mouth, but I was going to say something similar. Brewer didn't just make this up whole cloth - she heard it from somewhere and it was local (because what goes on across the border is local when you're in a border state - even if it's not actually at the border) and then she blew it up into something happening in the US.

Essentially I'll bet she got her talking points screwed up. Her people have been stuffing her full of talking points about crime in Mexico being scary and she's conflated that with her talking point about immigrants causing crime in Arizona and ended up with beheadings in the desert of Arizona. This is a strong indication that she doesn't know what she's talking about and doesn't care because her real purpose with this isn't to solve any real problems Arizona may be facing but to score political points.

Posted by: NonyNony on July 2, 2010 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

But trying to connect crime to immigration problems is a losing proposition.

Depends, Steve. Try talking to law enforcement officials in nearly every large metro city. Ask them what gang presents the biggest growing problem. They'll probably answer MS-13. Then ask them if the MS-13 members are mostly legal immigrants and citizens or illegal immigrants. They'll say the latter.

Then, as a follow-up, ask them how deportation and border patrol is working to combat the problem. They'll probably laugh.



Also, you have this:


Maybe the problem isn't as bad as Brewer and groups like the Minutemen portray, but there is a problem.

I guess my point is, don't try to portray all illegal immigrants as poor decent people just wanting to get a job. There are a mix of both good and bad people coming over the border illegally.

And frankly, with unemployment in the crapper, not too many Americans might feel the pain of illegal immigrants, esp. when those immigrants will work for less.

Posted by: Da Pup on July 2, 2010 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

MNPundit: Is Mexico one of our states having an influx of illegal immigrants?

Brewer's original comment lists "beheadings" as one among many things "that come with" illegal immigration. I think from the context she really means that beheadings come with drug cartel violence, which goes along with the rest of the list: crime, drugs, kidnappings, extortion... then beheadings. So she isn't really saying that illegal immigrants behead people, she's saying that illegal immigration is bound up with patterns of violent criminal activity. She's sensationalizing, certainly, but not literally saying that illegal immigrants behead people in the US.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 2, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

We're approaching that point in the debate where, in order to keep advancing her argument, Brewer will be forced to contend that illegal immigrants eat babies, cause earthquakes, and consort with the devil.

Posted by: trex on July 2, 2010 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Jon on July 2, 2010 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly Jan Brewer thinks illegal immigrants are actually immortal highlanders running amok in the Sonoran desert.

I think this is an exciting development!!

Posted by: fourlegsgood on July 2, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

The larger point is that the ReBPublicans continue to use fear in order to score political points. Shameless, and no way to run a country or a state.

Posted by: Hannah on July 2, 2010 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

It was getting tiresome hearing Republicans basing policy ideas on episodes of "24." How refreshing that Brewer has turned to episodes of "Breaking Bad."

Posted by: hells littlest angel on July 2, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Just to play devil's advocate here, we actually did have a beheading in a border state. Unfortunately, it was in Buffalo, NY, it wasn't a Latino/Hispanic immigrant, and it was a case of domestic violence, so it does very little to bolster Brewer's argument.


Posted by: Jacquie on July 2, 2010 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

They're Head-Chopping Maniacs!

No, they're Vampires!

I mean Zombies! Werewolves!

Wait, wait, I've got it - they're CHUPACABRAS!

Posted by: Yellow Dog on July 2, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Gov Brewer and crew are obscene in their portrayal of undocumented immigrants as little better than beasts. And they LIE when they say there are 450,000 illegal immigrants running around Az.

Fact: census reports about 6.595 million Az residents
Fact: census says about 30% are Hispanic Latin origin
Fact: this means 1.978 million Az residents are Hispanic Latino origin

Add: 450,000 illegal immigrants to that
Get: 2.429 million residents of Hispanic Latino origin

Divide: 450.000 by 2.429 million. to get % of illegal immigrants in total Hispanic population

Result: 19%. or 1 in 5 Hispanics you meet is an undocumented immigrant.

If True, catching illegal immigrants ought to be really simple. But it is Not. The INS spends tons of money trying to catch them.

Conclusion: if it seems too good to be true it is NOT TRUE. Gov Brewer is LIEING. She is saying in effect, "we must destroy AZ society in order to save it."

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on July 2, 2010 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

When told that media research could find no such incidents, the governor didn't care.

And if the rampant beheadings excuse doesn't work, there's always the fallback position: those awful immigrants are trying to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids!

Posted by: electrolite on July 2, 2010 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK


There is undoubtedly violence in Mexico connected with the illegal drug trade. "La Familia" sounds like good old "Cosa Nostra", although they are probably separate organizations with similar goals and MOs.

But how many illegal immigrants are connected in any way with illegal drug trafficking, on either side of the border? I don't think anyone knows.

The underlying problem is that poor people in Mexico who made a subsistence living before NAFTA can no longer make that living, so in desperation they go thousands of miles to a foreign country, just to see if they can earn enough to feed their families. This is combined with the desire to hire illegals at much lower rates than legal Americans. Until these two situations are addressed in some realistic fashion, there will continue to be illegals. Scare tactics such as those used by Jan Brewer are not only lies, but they make the situations much worse rather than better.

Fellow Arizonans--let's really work hard on getting Terry Goddard elected this fall!

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on July 2, 2010 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

"We cannot afford all this illegal immigration and everything that comes with it, everything from the crime and to the drugs and the kidnappings and the extortion and the beheadings ..."

Yeah! Why can't they behave more like legal immigrants who came to America?

You know, like the Irish. And the Italians.

Posted by: 2Manchu on July 2, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

If them illegal headhunters would only stop at beheading the innocent Americans! But, not content with simple beheadings, they're now replacing the original heads (which they send home as remittance to La Familia) with heads of lettuce!!! Gov Brewer should be commended for showing self restraint and not scaring Americans any further. Because, if there's anyone who knows of those heinous practices first hand, it is she...

Posted by: exlibra on July 2, 2010 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

They're purposefully causing traffic accidents on our highways, too, remember? I assume they then drag the victims out of their wrecked cars, and behead them. It's a Mexican thing.

Posted by: Kreniigh on July 2, 2010 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Every immigrant group has brought their gangs with them. Just go to New York and you'll find Irish gangs, Chinese gangs, Italian gangs, Jamaican gangs, Russian gangs, etc. And they probably need the gangs because the police aren't likely to protect them. But as a whole, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes.

Posted by: fostert on July 2, 2010 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

I think she was referring to a Criminal Minds episode. Maybe she has caught the Reagan disease....

Posted by: Marc in Denver on July 2, 2010 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously there's a lot of gruesome drug-related violence going on in Mexico, and it's easy to demagogue it as something that's going to spill across the border at any minute, but it just doesn't make sense when you think about it for a minute. Most of the violence has to do with drug gangs fighting over access to their market--us. You murder your competitors, not your customers.

Posted by: Stephen Stralka on July 2, 2010 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Is it OK if I'm afraid of "illegal" immigrants from other places: Ireland, Russia, and some other places with names I can't pronounce and can't spell and that have food I don't even like? I mean does that count towards making me an AMERICAN?

Posted by: robert on July 2, 2010 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently these clowns are under the impression that none of the legal brown people actually vote.


The demographics they are a-chaaaaan-gin'

Posted by: efgoldman on July 2, 2010 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'll give give my governor the benefit of the doubt on this. I'm guessing that (like me) she's a fan of TV's Breaking Bad, on which there have been beheadings; combine that powerful show with her obviously hectic schedule and bad memory -- voila! real, honest-to-god beheadings in the desert!

That's how politics on the right works these days, it works its way back from fiction to the executive's desk.

Posted by: karl on July 2, 2010 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

It's part of her absurd Hesbula meme and it isn't going to go very far after the comedians get a hold of it.

Posted by: Marnie on July 2, 2010 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Brewer's talking about the plot of the Criminal Minds show that aired on June29th.

Posted by: ghillie on July 2, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, the Criminal Minds episode that aired June 29th. Only it wasn't illegal immigrants beheading folks, they were the ones being beheaded by a renegade cop and I believe it was Texas. But, when an entertainment channel like Fox News passes for actual news, then I'm sure a television show like Criminal Minds could be accepted as real news, it was probably based on some truth, right??? sheesh!

Posted by: Rachel on July 2, 2010 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Brewer is way out of line, but the kernal of truth for her lie is very real. There are a lot of beheadings of Mexicans by Mexicans in Mexico as part of the drug wars. Not just in the border states - I go to the state of Guanajuato a lot, and someone found a cooler in San Juan del Rio (in the middle of Mexico) with somebody's head in it. I think Guanajuato and Queretaro are very safe for people not in the drug trade - the same isn't true for Juarez.

Posted by: American Citizen on July 2, 2010 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

I think that the table should be turned.

Posted by: DWIEBOLDT on July 4, 2010 at 4:46 AM | PERMALINK

There's a parallel to AZ's moral panic in the reaction to the Mexican Revolution among Anglos in the Southwest a century ago. At the time, the region was filling up w/ Anglo farmers from the South & Midwest. Given the racial attitudes they brought w/ them, they would have had fraught relations w/ the extant Mexican-American community in any case, but the turmoil across the border produced waves of racial hysteria. Paranoid stories of a Mexican-American conspiracy to kill all the white people were widespread. Large numbers of Mexican-Americans were murdered by roving gangs. Whole villages were massacred.

This looms larger in the historical memory of Mexican-Americans, & some Mexicans, than w/ the rest of us.

Last spring, a couple of months before AZ set off the current wave, one of the big Mexico City dailies - Reforma or La Jornada, I think - reported that when Caldern was planning his offensive against the cartels in 2006, there was some discussion, w/ this history in mind, of the risk that US reactions to the campaign might put both US-Mexican relations & the position of Hispanics in the US at risk.

In the event, Los Pinos obviously underestimated the difficulty of the campaign & the level of violence it has unleashed, & it didn't foresee the global economic crisis, which is also a factor in what's happening in AZ & elsewhere.

Posted by: K on July 4, 2010 at 7:30 AM | PERMALINK

Another GOP Master-Baiter Complete Fabrication of Facts - Just Like Rush Limbuagh:
...an authentic Old West shootout just South of the Arizona border....21 dead at least....


The article includes how a Mexican female prosecutor was assassinated, after a vehicle chase during which her two bodyguards were shot and then her brain was filled with machine gun bullets.

But, hey, that's in way far away Mexico, Milbanks is thinking"......It Was In Mexico - You Friggin Moron !!!

That's Just Like Creating The Myth that because Jan Brewer is On the Lunatic Fringe- The Governors of Arizona border states Are ALSO Crackheads or the 1/2 term Pretender Ex-Ex-Governor Sarah Palin who knows foreign policy because she can see Russia from her back yard. She no more than a bed-wetter and what adult wants that!!!

Who let Brewer out of the nuthouse? She better behave herself before all those gun toting minutemen decide her time is up!

Posted by: danglingwrangler on July 10, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK



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