The GOP candidates, in particular frontrunner Donald Trump, are using immigrant and religious communities as scapegoats for "basically all the problems of society," said Karina Garcia, an activist with the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition.
"Trump has really based himself in a declining, white middle-class and is using these kinds of messages to deceive people into believing that immigrants are their enemies," Garcia told Sputnik Radio's "Loud & Clear."
Trump's message, she said, is "the old game of the rich and powerful telling poor and working people to blame other poor and working people for their problems."
Last month, following an attack in which a couple inspired by Islamist extremists shot and killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Such sentiments from Trump and several of his fellow GOP candidates have led to an increase in attacks against the six to eight million Muslims legally in the country, said Robert McCaw, government affairs manager at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
"This toxic political environment which is being pushed forward by the Republican nomination process is having a direct effect on the ground for Muslims," McCaw said.
Last year was a "benchmark year" for anti-Muslim discrimination and bias, said McCaw, whose agency tracked more than 70 incidents of "hate crimes, intimidation [and] vandalism," targeting Mosques across the United States.
McCaw said there has been an increase in anti-Muslim bias during every election over the past 15 years. Part of the Republican Party's strategy, he said, is to "scapegoat, marginalize or target Muslims" and other minority groups to bring more pro-GOP voters to the polls.
— Adam Growe (@AdamGrowe) January 13, 2016
The 2016 Republican candidates are "trying to make it seem as though Muslims are a threat to this country … This is just another form of anti-immigrant sentiment," McCaw said.