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Blood on the Border

Blood on the Border

Magazine article

By: Southern Poverty Law Center

Date: 2001

Source: Southern Poverty Law Center: Intelligence Report. "Blood on the Border." 2001. http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=230 (accessed July 25, 2006).

About the Author: The Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project was established in 1981 to monitor hate groups and extremist activities throughout the United States. It also provides training to help law enforcement services and human rights groups combat organized racism. It publishes the quarterly Intelligence Report providing updates on the activities of more than 700 hate groups to law enforcement agencies, the media, and the public.

INTRODUCTION

The 2001 report "Blood on the Border" highlights the increasing threat to the United States of right-wing radicals and hate groups, who were growing in strength at that time in response to major increases in the immigration of nonwhite people to the country. In 2000, it was reported that there were 28.3 million immigrants in the United States; the majority were from Mexico, other Central or South American countries, the Caribbean, and East Asia. There were 7.9 million Mexican immigrants in the United States at that time. To some Americans, the new immigrants seemed very different ethnically and culturally.

Hate groups and other right-wing radical organizations who are opposed to nonwhite races have existed in the United States for a long time, but they have increased their activity and visibility in recent decades. This increase could be characterized as a backlash against the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s, a movement that some radicals believe has threatened the national identity of the United States. The increase in hate-group activity may also be a response to changes in immigration laws that have favored nonwhite immigrants. Under these circumstances, right-wing groups have been able to increase their support among the general population, and some have moved into the mainstream, developing links with the anti-immigration movement, promoting their literature widely, and even contesting elections.

There are various types of right-wing radicals and hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, the skinhead movement, neo-Nazi groups, and some church organizations that use the scriptures to justify their white supremacist views. Although the specific ideologies, goals, and practices of these movements may vary, they share a virulent opposition to racial and ethnic minorities and often to other minority groups such as homosexuals and the disabled. Many advocate the use of violence or even murder in the name of preserving America's national white identity. They believe in the racial supremacy or superiority of white people, citing "scientific" evidence in proof of this, and they argue that nonwhite immigrants are taking jobs and living off welfare benefits in America, at a cost to the white population. Many of these organizations believe that there are conspiracies to undermine white dominance of the nation, either on the part of the government, which they believe to be run by Jews, or on the part of Mexico, which they believe is trying to lay claim to the southern U.S. states. There are close links between many of the groups in terms of information-sharing and the organization of rallies and other events, and their leaders and members are often associated with more than one organization.

In the mid-1990s, it was estimated that 25,000 Americans were actively involved in hate groups, while a further 150,000 were likely to be "armchair racists" who do not actively participate but may receive literature and occasionally attend rallies. The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded an increase in the number of active hate groups in the United States from 240 in 1996 to 474 in 1998 and 676 in 2001. It is believed that the growth in the number of hate groups and in their membership was facilitated by the ease of communication via the internet and was influenced by particular forms of white power music among American youth. At the same time, there were increases in the amount and severity of violence being used by the groups against their victims, with many violent assaults and homicides being recorded. The members of such groups are often heavily armed in preparation for the race war that they believe is inevitable and by which they hope to achieve their goals either of banishing all nonwhites from the United States or of establishing separate territories for each racial group. However, the majority of racial hate crime is committed by individuals and small groups who are not connected with the organized hate movement.

PRIMARY SOURCE

In the frightening world of John Vinson's American Immigration Control Foundation (AICF), Americans are "fighting a war" with an "unseen enemy" who is rapidly ravishing the land.

A "raging flood" of Latins, Haitians and other Third Worlders "the greatest wave of immigration the world has ever witnessed" threatens America's "generally European" core with "foreign domination."

Already, Miami is a "Third World nightmare." "Illegal aliens" practice "voodoo" and leave stinking "human waste" in the streets. They bring crime, slums, urban sprawl and other troubles. "America is beautiful," says the narrator in one AICF videotape. "Why spoil it?"

John Vinson is not alone in his fears. The American radical right and even more so, the European is haunted by a specter: the day when white numerical dominance will end, sometime after 2050 in the United States.

The news last August that California had become the first large state to see its white population dip below 50 percent sent chills up the collective spine of the extreme right.

In the last year, radical groups around the country grew increasingly agitated over immigration. The pages of their publications filled with dire predictions of white racial extinction, a situation variously blamed on "corporate America" and a plot by Mexico.

Some held rallies in places where immigration is changing the local landscape, while others worked alongside more "mainstream" anti-immigrant groups to promote vigilantism.

Many wrote of the perils of foreign "takeovers" by non-whites. And David Duke, the former Klansman, started a group specifically to take advantage of nativist hatred. More and more, the radical right came to fear racial Armageddon at the hands of dark-skinned aliens.

"The brute fact," warned Sam Francis, editor of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens' Citizens Informer, "is that unrestricted immigration has allowed the American Southwest to be invaded by aliens who may well in the near future … break the American nation apart."

Violence, too, is growing common both along the border and in places as far away as Long Island and Minnesota. In Pittsburgh last year, a lawyer allegedly went on a rampage against immigrants that left five non-whites dead.

Defeat and "Race War" in California For the moment, anti-immigration activists face a dilemma. Since a major anti-immigrant proposition in California was overturned by the courts in 1998, opposition to immigration as a mainstream issue has faded.

As Francis complained angrily in a recent Citizens Informer editorial, "The Republicans in the last few years have almost entirely surrendered on immigration control."

Last fall, the only presidential candidate who ran on an anti-immigration platform—Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party—got just one percent of the vote, not the three-to-five percent many expected. A strong economy has meant few concerns about low-wage American jobs.

But that could change quickly. If, as many expect, the U.S. economy falls into a recession, all bets are off. In past downturns, Americans have passed harsh anti-immigration measures and violence has typically accelerated.

In Europe, recent hard times have seen outbursts of savage anti-immigrant attacks, including the fatal fire-bombings of several hotels full of foreign refugees.

Extremist nationalism is on the rise in the northern and central nations there and a similar phenomenon could easily hit the United States, given that immigration here already is at the highest levels since the massive wave of the early 1900s.

"I once interviewed a Spanish neo-fascist who talked about how capitalist society was like a diamond, very, very hard, almost impossible to break," says Martin Lee, an expert on the resurgence of fascism in Europe.

"But he said that if you found exactly the right pressure point, it could crack. For the European radical right, immigration has been that point for 30 years."

And what about America? "This is a precise situation which can start a race war," a hopeful "Tripp Henderson," a New Jersey member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, wrote in a posting to an Alliance e-group.

"All it takes is for bodies to show up, and for the Mexicans in L.A. to start reprisals against Whites in California. Many wars have started over a single shot. I seriously urge any lone-wolf to leave a few bodies in the desert to get things warmed up."

Violence and Propaganda Already, in an increasingly charged atmosphere along the U.S.-Mexican border, there has been violence. In the last year—the same period in which several Arizona ranchers made national news by "arresting" at gunpoint illegal aliens who crossed their lands—three would-be border-crossers have been killed in apparent vigilante violence.

One of them was shot from behind after asking a Texas rancher for water; he was left to bleed to death in the scrub brush. Seven others are confirmed wounded, and the toll will almost certainly go higher.

To the north, in Bloomington, Minn., a Hispanic man was clubbed and critically injured for speaking Spanish at a job site. In Farmingville, N.Y., a pair of tattooed racists were accused of posing as contractors to lure two undocumented Mexican workers to a warehouse where they were beaten severely.

This violence has been accompanied by renewed interest in immigration from two kinds of right-wing groups, some white supremacist and others less clearly so. Increasingly, these two sets of groups are finding common ground.

White supremacist groups almost by definition hate immigrants—at least dark-skinned ones. For groups from the National Alliance to the Klan to racist Skinhead crews, the Third World foreigner has always been an anathema.

But two of these racist groups are today particularly outspoken: the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) and its much smaller, more intellectual cousin, Jared Taylor's New Century Foundation, which publishes American Renaissance magazine.

The 15,000-plus-member CCC, led by Gordon Lee Baum, has taken up immigration issues ever more vigorously in the months since Sam Francis, a fired Washington Times columnist who once chaired Vinson's AICF, took over as editor-in-chief of its Citizens Informer.

At the same time, American Renaissance, a journal dedicated to "proving" racial differences, has published Francis, California State University professor Roger McGrath and other anti-immigration ideologues. More and more, these two periodicals share both writers and politics.

Mexicans as "Cultural Cancer" Racist organizations like the CCC and the New Century Foundation have certainly helped beat the drum of anger at non-white immigrants, reaching thousands of people on the hard right with their messages.

But in many ways, it has been in a different milieu—in the circle of ostensibly more "mainstream" anti-immigration groups like AICF—that this movement has grown strong.

Vinson's videotape, "Immigration: Making America Less Beautiful?", is a lurid vision of barbarians at the gate and a classic example of the harsh anti-immigration propaganda now making the rounds.

To the strains of "America the Beautiful," it opens with Old Glory flapping, the U.S. Capitol, colonial houses and quiet streets. Suddenly, the music changes.

In Mexico, rough soldiers are saluting menacingly as they march by in red berets. Now, back to the Capitol, "America the Beautiful," blond-haired white kids tumbling down a slide. Then, to the border: a scary nightscope shot of Mexican illegals pouring across the line.

In a little while, a weeping woman will describe her son's murder by a "gang of illegals."

Glen Spencer's Voices of Citizens Together (VCT) almost makes AICF look tame by comparison. A Mexican invasion, Spencer warns in his own videotape, is racing across America "like wildfire." There are drugs in Iowa, gang takeovers in Nevada, and "traitors" in the Democratic Party, the Catholic Church and among the "corporate globalists."

Bringing crime, drugs, squalor and "immigration via the birth canal," Mexicans are a "cultural cancer" from which Western civilization "must be rescued." They are threatening the birthright left by the white colonists who "earned the right to stewardship of the land." And this invasion is no accident.

Working in league with communist Chicano activists and their allies in America, Spencer warns, Mexico is using a little-known but highly effective plan—a scheme already successful in "seizing power" in California—"to defeat America."

The name of the conspiracy is the "Plan deAztlán."…

Leaving the Mainstream Much of [the] hard-line anti-immigrant movement today goes back to efforts in California to pass Proposition 187, which would have expelled illegal aliens from public schools and ended their access to benefits other than emergency medical treatment.

With the indispensable support of several key groups—in particular, Spencer's VCT and Barbara CEO's California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR)—Prop 187 was approved in 1994 with 60 percent of the vote.

But in 1998, after years of court battles, the proposition was struck down, dealing a body blow to the mainstream anti-immigration movement.

It was later that year that VCT, CCIR and the more mainstream Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) began working with the racist CCC. Coe, Spencer and Rick Oltman, FAIR'S western regional representative, all came to Clump, Ala., to speak at a 1998 anti-immigrant rally hosted by CCC.

The event, held to protest a swelling population of Mexican workers in the region, ended with the arrest of one of the rally's organizers. He was charged with violating a local ordinance regulating outdoor fires by burning a Mexican flag.

Vinson, for his part, began writing regular articles that year on the perils of immigration for the CPC's newspaper. Around the same time, Spencer began selling his videotape in full-page ads in the same paper.

(The CPC's racism, it should be noted, is not subtle. One recent commentary on the Florida CCC chapter's Web site, posted alongside a photo of an asylum-seeker, went like this: "THIS WORTHLESS, DIRT POOR, HAITIAN LEACH [sic] and her 3 BRATS have ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT to be in this COUNTRY …!!!!!!!!!!!!!!")

In July 1999, the CCC organized an immigration panel at its semi-annual conference, held that summer in Washington, D.C. Speaking at the conference, where books with titles like The Aryan Race were offered for sale, were some key new luminaries of the anti-immigrant right: Vinson, Spencer and Litton.

Also in 1999, Spencer sent copies of his remarkable video to every member of Congress. Hand-delivering the videos was Bettina Mecca—the fiancée of the National Alliance's "military coordinator," neo-Nazi Steven Barry.

Picking the Scab In January 2000, David Duke, having recently abandoned attempts to appear nonracist, launched a new group he called the National Organization for European American Rights (NOFEAR). Explaining his new group's concerns at the National Press Club, Duke said, "If the present immigration rates continue … the European-American people will basically be lost as an entity."

Within a month, Duke was in Siler City, N.C., to tell about 100 people at an anti-immigration rally that they were losing their way of life to Hispanics who had come to work in local chicken-processing plants. The rally was organized by the National Alliance.

Last May, after national publicity surrounding Arizona rancher Roger Barnett's armed "arrests" of hundreds of illegals crossing his land, many anti-immigration groups came to Sierra Vista, Ariz., to back Barnett and others. Co-sponsoring the meeting were Spencer, Oltman and CEO (who referred to foreigners as "illegal alien savages").

Also attending, supposedly unbeknownst to the organizers, were two representatives of NOFEAR and unrobed members of an Arkansas Klan group. A Klan flier appeared on cars before the gathering.

In September, Spencer also traveled east to speak to a Long Island, N.Y., outfit called Sachem Quality of Life, a local anti-immigration group. His visit came just weeks after two Mexican day laborers were badly beaten in a warehouse, allegedly by white supremacists.

A few days after Spencer gave a fiery speech, a member of the Sachem group was arrested for threatening a local Hispanic family.

Spencer is active in other ways, as well. He hosts a syndicated radio show, "American Patrol Report," airing in 19 markets. He has interviewed Jared Taylor; former John Birch Society member Ebola Foster, Buchanan's running mate in the 2000 election; Kevin McDonald, a California State University professor who sees Jews behind U.S. immigration policies; and colleagues CEO and Oltman.

"Blood on the Border" In October, another anti-immigration delegation traveled to Arizona to lend its support to Roger Barnett, the controversial rancher who reportedly told a British newspaper that "tracking humans … is the biggest thrill."

This time it was a group known as Ranch Rescue, organized last summer by a Texan named Jack Foot. Foot, a conspiracy-oriented anti-immigration activist, had promised to "put a stop to … mass criminal trespass." When they arrived, Foot and a few followers spent time helping Barnett fix fences and "patrolling" his ranch.

Foote, who carried a large weapon and binoculars, has made a name for himself as a hard-liner. He reacted furiously, for instance, to an e-mail from a Mexican-American who accused him of racism.

"You and the vast majority of your fellow dog turns are ignorant, uneducated, and desperate for a life in a decent nation because the one you live in is nothing but a pile of dog shit made up of millions of worthless little dog turns like yourself," Foot wrote.

Finally, in December, the antigovernment separatist group known as the Republic of Texas (ROT) decided to "deploy" its "Texas Defense Forces" to part of the Mexican border to help "in controlling illegal border crossings."

ROT leader Daniel Miller said that any illegals who are intercepted in the operation planned for early this year "will be escorted back to the border and ordered to return."

That kind of talk bothers Miguel Escobar Valdàz.

Sitting in a drab, one-story building in Douglas, Ariz., not too far from Roger Barnett's ranch, the Mexican consul is leafing slowly through a lengthy report. Marked "CONFIDENTIAL," Escobar's report carries a title which leaves little to the imagination: "Incidents in Which Armed Private Citizens Threatened and Apprehended Individuals Presumed to be Undocumented Migrants."

One woman, the report says, was apparently fired on three times as she crossed a nearby ranch. Nine migrants say they were stopped by a local who fired half a dozen shots at them.

A group of 13 claims a rancher's wife set a German Shepherd on one of them while her husband held the rest at gunpoint. Armed ranchers forced two cars off a public road and held the 16 migrants in them until the Border Patrol showed up.

In incident after incident—28 in all, just in this small sector of the border over 17 months—angry white ranchers allegedly used weapons and threats, and sometimes violence, to "arrest" illegal aliens.

"I am very worried about the situation," Escobar said slowly as he spoke of the growing potential of an anti-immigration movement with an increasingly racist and vigilante edge. "We are all afraid of more blood on the border."

SIGNIFICANCE

When this report was written in 2001, immigration had faded as a mainstream political issue, due to a strong economy and few concerns about unemployment among the American-born population, and it was hoped that this would lead to a decline in support for hate groups. By 2005, however, immigration was firmly on the political agenda again, and white nationalist and other radical anti-immigration groups were increasing their influence in mainstream politics. Violent activity and vigilantism had also increased, particularly with the growth of so-called "Minutemen" vigilantes patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border region. In 2005 and 2006, there were demonstrations across the country in response to various immigration reform bills, demonstrations that resulted in violent clashes between anti-immigration and pro-immigration protesters, and at which hate groups were often strongly represented.

Within the political establishment, Republican Representative Tom Tancredo, who set up a congressional immigration-reform caucus to promote legislation to reduce both undocumented and legal immigration to the United States, has frequently attended the rallies and meetings of radical right-wing anti-immigration groups and has even praised the Minutemen initiative. However, there is still little support for extreme nationalist groups among the majority of the population, and the association of Tancredo and his anti-immigration colleagues with such groups may reduce rather than increase the level of popular support for tighter immigration policies.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Perry, Barbara. In the Name of Hate: Understanding Hate Crimes. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Eatwell, Roger, and Cas Mudde. Western Democracies and the New Extreme Right Challenge. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Periodicals

Zeskind, Leonard. "The New Nativism: The Alarming Overlap between White Nationalists and Mainstream Anti-Immigrant Forces." The American Prospect 16 (2005).

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