GOP Congressman Suggests ‘Pinochet Air’ Death Flights for Migrants

“We wonder why the right-wingers aren’t freaking out about Trump’s dictator talk but we shouldn’t,” said one local Democratic leader in Georgia.

By Brett Wilkins. Published 2-2-2024 by Common Dreams

U.S. Rep. Mike Collins (R-Ga.) is seen here in a December 6, 2023 photo. 
(Photo: Mike Collins/Facebook)

A Republican congressman from Georgia on Thursday suggested a novel way to stem the influx of migrants at the southern border: throw them from helicopters into the sea.

Responding to a photo showing a migrant flipping off the camera following his release without bail from a New York City court, Rep. Mike Collins took to social media to reply to a post by Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.) advising the young man to “holla at the cartels and have them escort you back.”

“Or we could buy him a ticket on Pinochet Air for a free helicopter ride back,” Collins suggested. He was referring to former U.S.-backed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, whose regime was known to “disappear” critics by throwing them from helicopters into the Pacific Ocean and other waterways while they were still alive in what became known as “death flights.”

As Christopher Mathias—a senior HuffPost reporter who covers the far-right—noted, Collins “is parroting a meme that’s been popular among white supremacists and neofascists like the Proud Boys.”

After Collins’ post was removed from X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, the congressman appealed directly to owner Elon Musk, saying that “he’s apparently got a few more folks to fire,” a reference to the site’s purge of content moderators following its purchase by the multibillionaire.

Collins’ post was restored with a notice that although it “violated the X rules,” the site determined that “it may be in the public’s interest” for it to remain accessible.

On right-wing sites including Daily Caller, commenters overwhelmingly voiced support for Collins’ suggestion—although one reader found helicopter flights to be a “waste of time,” preferring to “just shoot them at the border.”

Pete Fuller, the Democratic Party chair in Jackson County, Georgia—which is part of Collins’ district—tied the congressman’s remarks to those of former President Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner for the November election.

“We wonder why the right-wingers aren’t freaking out about Trump’s dictator talk but we shouldn’t,” Fuller said. “The hard right would love Trump taking over dictatorial powers and to start disappearing the people that are inconvenient to them.”

Trump infamously suggested shooting migrants and stocking the Rio Grande with alligators, a proposal that resurfaced this week when Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) attempted to breathe life into her floundering reelection campaign by affirming she would co-sponsor legislation authorizing an alligator moat.

Collins is a more serious supporter of deadly obstacles in the Rio Grande. Responding to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the Biden administration’s order for federal border authorities to cut down razor wire installed by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, the Georgia lawmaker said he will introduce the Restricting Administration Zealots from Obliging Raiders (RAZOR) Act. His bill would ban the federal government from removing or altering “any state-constructed barriers installed to mitigate illegal immigration.”

The Supreme Court ruling followed a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit over Texas’ razor wire-topped buoy barriers in the Rio Grande, in which numerous migrants have drowned while trying to cross into the United States. One migrant’s body was found in the buoy barrier last year.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden has come under fire from migrant rights advocates for expressing his willingness to “shut down the border” in exchange for a deal with Republican lawmakers that would continue U.S. funding for Ukraine’s defense against Russian invasion.

Critics have warned that such a bargain would cost migrants lives and result in the evisceration of rights and protections for legal asylum-seekers and other immigrants.

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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