Immigrant kids bring out the phobias in conservative xenophobes

Anyone who has ever wondered what happened to that strange-looking, banjo-playing kid from “Deliverance” should check out Rep. Louie Gohmert. Imagine that kid all grown up and you’ll have the spitting image of the Texas Republican.

Like banjo boy, Gohmert is weirdly mesmerizing. What swamp did he wander out of and how in the world did he get elected to the United States House of Representatives? The scary answer: There are thousands of people just like him in Texas’s 1st Congressional District.

Gohmert shows up regularly to spin conspiracy theories on the floor of the House, thereby supplying snarky MSNBC hosts with a steady stream of crazy, right-wing nonsense to ridicule. A few years ago, he gained attention when he sounded the alarm about “terror babies” -- children of women who he claimed were coming into the U.S. to produce offspring who would grow up to attack America.

These days, he is more concerned with a different kiddie threat. It is time, he says, to “use whatever means,” including troops and ships of war, to stop an invasion that he compares to the D-day invasion of Normandy. The invaders? All those children who made their way from Central America, stepped across the border and put themselves in the hands of federal authorities.


Gohmert is not alone in his alarm. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called up the National Guard and headed to the border himself to pose in a helicopter with a big gun aimed out the window, presumably in the direction of the invaders. Over in Arizona, a Republican congressional candidate, Adam Kwasman, chased after a school bus he thought was filled with immigrant kids. Before he was told the children were all-American boys and girls on their way to YMCA camp, not dangerous trespassers, he claimed he saw the fear in the youngsters’ faces.

There’s no argument that having 52,000 undocumented children land in the lap of the Border Patrol is a problem. But the response to the situation from some folks has been appalling, ranging from the merely stupid to the dangerously paranoid. Screaming, red-faced protesters blocking buses filled with immigrant children have shown an ugly face of America to the world. Militia groups -- including one with a gun-toting leader who was dishonorably discharged from the military -- have swept down to the border with trigger fingers itching. Republican politicians have exploited the issue, whipping up anger for political advantage while continuing to boycott any sane plan to reform the immigration system.

Glenn Beck, normally a hero to conspiracy-loving conservatives, has felt their wrath because he has taken truckloads of teddy bears and soccer balls to the detention centers where the children are being kept. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin, the P.T. Barnum of the Christian right, mocked Nancy Pelosi after the House minority leader called on people to recognize “the spark of divinity” in the immigrant kids because “we are all God’s children.”

Divinity is not what Palin, Gohmert, Perry or the gangs of angry “patriots” see in these children. Though there is plenty of evidence most of the kids have come north to escape the violence in their home countries, the patriot crowd warns that there are dangerous drug gang operatives among the 7- and 8-year-olds.


Even if all 52,000 of them were junior gangsters, I’m not sure they would be more of a threat to the republic than many of those who are so opposed to showing them an ounce of compassion. The kids, at least, might be persuaded to change their nefarious ways. The self-appointed border defenders, on the other hand, cannot be persuaded of anything that does not fit into their nutty version of reality.

They think they live in country where the president is a terrorist-coddling, Kenya-born socialist who wants to take their guns, close their churches, turn their kids into pagan homosexuals and open the borders to a horde of brown-skinned marauders who will all become loyal Democratic Party voters.

If things are really that bad, maybe it’s time for them to follow Mitt Romney’s advice and self-deport.