Loren Nichols, a candidate for Kennewick city council in Washington state, has proposed that undocumented immigrants be shot at the border, or be put to death. In an interview last week with local radio station KONA, Nichols, a Navy veteran, said to hose Jeff Phillips, “If any illegal immigrants value their lives, they would leave within 30 days…”
His anti-immigrant approach is multi-pronged:
- Implement an English-only law.
- Order “illegal aliens” to leave town in 30 days.
- Reward tipsters with $1,000 for turning people into the police.
- Exact capital punishment and hope that this serves as an example to strike fear in the hearts of immigrants.
The Seattle Weekly followed up with Nichols to clarify what he’d said on the radio:
OneAmerica Organizing Director David Ayala issued the following statement on Nichols’ comments:
On how he’d keep illegal immigrants out in the first place: “At the border we need military presence there. It comes down to illegal foreign invasion of U.S. soil. That should be met with deadly force. Coming in, invading U.S. soil, that’s an act of war.”
On how he’d go about rounding up the undocumented immigrants already in Kennewick: “I think people could be encouraged to turn them in.” And then? “I guess the first death or two that has to be processed would get their attention. It’s unfortunate we’d have to do that. I’m not saying it’s my intent to see anybody die. But I’d do what’s necessary.
Mr. Nicols’ statements are offensive and irresponsible. He tramples upon American values of justice and compassion. Threatening language like this has no place in public discourse and creates an environment with real and dangerous consequences for immigrants and people of color. OneAmerica, the largest immigrant advocacy organization in the state of Washington, demands an immediate apology from Nichols.
As of today, Nichols still hasn’t backed down from his statements.
Unfortunately, this type of news isn’t surprising anymore. As disturbing as it is, the media coverage of these incidents often further works to dehumanize immigrants. On CBS’ KXNT in Vegas, guest talk radio host, Chet Buchanan, discussed how Nichols threatened the lives of immigrants and posed the question to listeners: “Should Illegals be Shot?”
And I want you to be honest right now … you didn’t reach for your phones, but you slapped the steering wheel and you said, ‘Hell yeah they should … Shoot them at the border. I pay my taxes, I follow the rules …You don’t even have to give your name, but here’s the thing: I know that it’s the politically correct thing to say ‘Oh you can’t say that.’ But I know you think it. I know you do cuz you talk about it when you’re not on the radio. You talk about it with your friends. You talk about it when you think that nobody else is listening.
Buchanan used the Nichols incident to ask that gruesome question, and in doing so exemplified the twisted logic in perpetuating the argument that immigrants aren’t actually people. The rationale for killing migrants at the border or having capital punishment be the consequences for people not having papers, is not a departure from the current environment undocumented immigrants are enduring. Hate crimes against Latinos increased in the last decade and they have spiked whenever public discourse on immigration becomes more aggressive.
Violence and death are a part of the migrant reality in ways that may be invisible to many. It’s a crisis. Migrants are dying in the desert on their way to the U.S, and ICE agents are killing people on both sides of the border. Immigrants are being deported to risk death in countries where they can be persecuted for their beliefs, or for being gay or transgender. And to boot, the Obama administration has deported one million immigrants.
These policies undermine a human rights crisis on U.S. soil. And the language used by elected officials and media makers covertly works to prolong it. But we have the power to create change. Martin Luther King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Every voice standing up for human dignity counts.