Trump campaign has used 'invasion' in thousands of Facebook ads

President TrumpDonald John TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated MORE’s campaign has placed thousands of advertisements on Facebook since January warning of an “invasion” at the U.S. southern border, according to a review of Facebook’s ad archives by The Hill. 

The advertisements, more than 2,000 of which were posted between January and May, are now inactive. But they show how the president’s campaign has seized on language that critics say is racist and xenophobic to drum up political support. 

“The crisis at the Southern Border is even worse than most understand,” one ad, first posted in January, reads. “I have taken MULTIPLE trips to the border to show the true invasion happening but the Democrats and the Fake News Media just won’t listen.”

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That language — particularly the use of the word “invasion” — has come under renewed criticism in recent days after it turned up in a manifesto believed to have been written by the suspected gunman in last weekend's mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. The accused shooter allegedly wrote the attack, which killed 22 people and wounded more, was a response to a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

The Trump campaign’s repeated use of the word “invasion” in Facebook advertisements was first reported by The New York Times on Monday. 

Another ad from the Trump campaign, first posted on Facebook in February, accuses Democrats of failing to negotiate in good faith on funding for the president’s proposed border wall, saying that “OBSTRUCTION is far more important to them than YOUR SAFETY.”

“We have an INVASION! So we are BUILDING THE WALL to STOP IT. Dems will sue us. But we want a SAFE COUNTRY!” the ad reads.

The Trump campaign has invested millions of dollars in digital advertising, particularly on Facebook, and data from the social media site shows that the ads using the word “invasion” account for only a small fraction of the total ads purchased by the campaign. Between Jan. 5 and July 27, the campaign spent $8.7 million on Facebook advertising, according to data from the Democratic digital firm Bully Pulpit Interactive.

Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for the Trump campaign, said that the ads were an "accurate description of the situation" at the southern border, citing statistics about unauthorized border crossings apparently compiled from U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.

“The Trump campaign has run hundreds of thousands of Facebook ads on many topics, including illegal immigration," Murtaugh said in a statement to The Hill. "More than a million people from across the world have entered this country illegally already this year. At any given moment, there are 100,000 migrants making their way through Mexico to attempt to break our immigration laws. Most alarmingly, 138,000 illegal immigrants with criminal histories were arrested by ICE last year alone while 5,000 pounds of heroin and nearly 1,800 pounds of fentanyl were seized by Border Patrol agents – enough fentanyl to kill every man, woman, and child in this country."

"By objecting to an accurate description of the situation, Democrats and the media are trying to make it impossible to oppose illegal immigration without being called racist.”

In addition to the Facebook advertisements, Trump has repeatedly made mention of a so-called invasion at the southern border during campaign rallies and on Twitter. The most recent tweet came in June, when he threatened to levy tariffs on Mexico if officials there failed to crack down on unauthorized crossings into the U.S. 

“Either they stop the invasion of our Country by Drug Dealers, Cartels, Human Traffickers, Coyotes and Illegal Immigrants, which they can do very easily, or our many companies and jobs that have been foolishly allowed to move South of the Border, will be brought back into the United States through taxation (Tariffs),” Trump wrote. “America has had enough!”

To be sure, Trump has sought to distance himself from the ideas espoused by the suspected gunman in El Paso. 

In his first in-depth remarks on the shooting on Monday, Trump condemned “bigotry, hatred and white supremacy” and vowed to provide law enforcement agencies with “whatever they need” to combat domestic terrorism. 

But Democrats have roundly criticized Trump’s rhetoric, which they say has emboldened white nationalists and spread anti-immigrant sentiment. They argue that regardless of his condemnation of racist ideologies on Monday, the president has built his political brand around stoking racial and cultural divisions.

Speaking at a forum hosted by the Latino advocacy group UnidosUS on Monday, several Democratic presidential candidates sounded off against what they said was Trump’s weaponization of hateful rhetoric to further his political agenda. 

“I say to Donald Trump, stop your anti-immigrant rhetoric,” Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJoe Biden faces an uncertain path Bernie Sanders vows to go to 'war with white nationalism and racism' as president Biden: 'There's an awful lot of really good Republicans out there' MORE (I-Vt.) said. “Stop the hatred, because that language, that hatred, that divisiveness creates a situation where certain people will do terrible things.”

“The attack two days ago was an attack on the Latino community, it was an attack on immigrants, it was an attack on Mexicans and Mexican Americans,” Julián Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary, said. “And that is no accident. That is due in part to the climate this president has set of division, of otherness.”

David AxelrodDavid Axelrod2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care The Hill's Morning Report - More talk on guns; many questions on Epstein's death Trump campaign has used 'invasion' in thousands of Facebook ads MORE, the veteran Democratic strategist, said that Trump’s references to an “invasion” in the Facebook ads were part of a broader strategy to provoke his supporters. But that strategy, he said, can have consequences.

“THOUSANDS of incendiary @realDonaldTrump campaign ads, THIS YEAR, invoked the menacing language of ‘invasion’ mimicked by El Paso gunman,” Axelrod tweeted. “Trump sees profit in provocation. But you light a fuse, you invite an explosion. Period. Full stop.”

--Updated at 6:16 p.m.