No matter how much those on both sides of the immigration issue wish it where not true, it is impossible to deny that race and hate are inexorably tied to the debate. From closeted white supremacists that hold the most extreme nativist views and support such groups as the National Alliance and Border Guardians, to those who marched as much against the underlying racism that permeates many sectors of society as they did for immigrant rights, race is the issue at hand and to ignore that fact is delusional and disingenuous at best and could prove to be downright dangerous and destructive unless we as a nation come to terms with it.
Brian James, a fill-in talk show host with Phoenix AM radio station KFYI, suggested on the air last month that a solution to the immigration problem in Arizona would be to kill illegal immigrants as they cross the border.
‘‘What we'll do is randomly pick one night every week where we will kill whoever crosses the border,'' James said in the March 8 broadcast. ‘‘Step over there and you die. You get to decide whether it's your lucky night or not. I think that would be more fun.''
He said he would be ‘‘happy to sit there with my high-powered rifle and my night scope'' and kill people as the cross the border. He also suggested that the National Guard shoot illegal immigrants and receive ‘‘$100 a head.''
James has been a talk show host in Tampa and Salt Lake City. He is a fill-in host at KFYI and has been on air there twice, said Laurie Cantillo, program manager at the radio station.
Cantillo denied that James's comments were dangerous or irresponsible.
Mohave Daily News
(more below the fold)
tags: immigration, racism, white supremacists, minutemen
James's rhetoric was picked up later by hate speech radio personality Hal Turner who posted this on his popular (2.5mil hits 2005) website.
"All of you who think there's a peaceful solution to these invaders are wrong. We're going to have to start killing these people," neo-Nazi radio host Hal Turner posted to his website the day after 500,000 immigrant rights activists marched through downtown Los Angeles.
"I advocate using extreme violence against illegal aliens. Clean your guns. Have plenty of ammunition. Find out where the largest gathering of illegal aliens will be near you. Go to the area well in advance, scope out several places to position yourself and then do what has to be done."
Turner linked the post to a website titled "Ka-Fucking-Boom!" that provides detailed instructions on constructing pipe bombs, ammonium nitrate "fertilizer bombs," car bombs, chlorine gas bombs, and dozens of other homemade explosive devices.
Southern Poverty Law Center
Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the Minutemen Project in an interview with The Orange County Register on March 30, 2006 threatened possible armed insurrection if Congress failed to pass the kind of restrictive immigration legislation he and his followers are looking for.
"I don't want to sound paranoid, but when you see hundreds of thousands of people rallying around a foreign flag ... it's the next thing to foreign insurrection," he said.
On the other hand, he says, Congress could spur an insurrection from the anti-illegal immigration side if it approves a plan that would legitimize those now in the country illegally. Such a move, he says, would undermine this country's rule of law.
"I'm not going to promote insurrection, but if it happens, it will be on the conscience of the members of Congress who are doing this," he said. "I will not promote violence in resolving this, but I will not stop others who might pursue that."
Orange County Register
This kind of threatening language permeates the "citizen border patrol" movement.
The night of April 3, armed vigilantes camped along Border Road in a series of watch posts set-up for the Minuteman Project, a month-long action in which revolving casts of 150 to 200 anti-immigration militants wearing cheap plastic "Undocumented Border Patrol Agent" badges mobilized in southeastern Arizona. Their stated goal was to "do the job our government refuses to do" and "protect America" from the "tens of millions of invading illegal aliens who are devouring and plundering our nation."
At Station Two, Minuteman volunteers grilled bratwursts and fantasized about murder.
"It should be legal to kill illegals," said Carl, a 69-year old retired Special Forces veteran who fought in Vietnam and now lives out West. "Just shoot 'em on sight. That's my immigration policy recommendation. You break into my country, you die."
Carl was armed with a revolver chambered to fire shotgun shells. He wore this hand cannon in a holster below a shirt that howled "American bad asses" in red, white and blue. The other vigilantes assigned to Station Two included a pair of self-professed members of the National Alliance, a violent neo-Nazi organization. These men, who gave their names only as Johnny and Michael, were outfitted in full-body camouflage and strapped with semi-automatic pistols.
Earlier that day, Johnny and Michael had scouted sniper positions in the rolling, cactus-studded foothills north of Border Road, taking compass readings and drawing maps for future reference.
"I agree completely," Michael said. "You get up there with a rifle and start shooting four or five of them a week, the other four or five thousand behind them are going to think twice about crossing that line."
For some the talk of violence has moved from rhetorical bravado to action.
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.
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."…
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.
Many would suggest that these views and actions are those of a fringe element that in no way represents any mainstream school of thought in the immigration debate, but they would be wrong. Minuteman co-founder Gilchrist has appeared as guest "expert" on the immigration issue on many national TV and radio shows including the favorite of the "closed borders crowd", Lou Dobbs Tonight.
Probably more important to the overall debate about race, violence and immigration is the fact that the politician at the forefront of the of the immigration debate and the most vocal proponent of stricter border control, Tom Tancredo (R-CO) is a major a supporter of the Minutemen and their brand of violent rhetoric.
The keynote speaker at the Minuteman Project's opening day rally was Tom Tancredo, the Republican Congressman from Colorado who chairs the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus.
Tancredo addressed a crowd of about 100 inside Schieffelin Hall, an auditorium not far from the ok Corral. Outside the hall, a phalanx of Arizona Rangers (a state police agency) stood between the hall's entrance and about 40 anti-Minutemen protesters who banged on pots and pans and drums while the vibrantly outfitted performers of a traditional Aztec dance group leapt and whirled to the cacophonous rhythm.
In late March, President Bush had condemned the Minuteman Project at a joint press conference with Mexican President Vicente Fox. "I'm against vigilantes in the United States of America," Bush said. "I'm for enforcing the law in a rational way."
Tancredo said that Bush should be forced to write, "I'm sorry for calling you vigilantes," on a blackboard one hundred times and then erase the chalk with his tongue.
"You are not vigilantes," he roared. "You are heroes!"
Tancredo told the Minutemen that each of them stood for 100,000 likeminded Americans who couldn't afford to make the trip. He applauded Gilchrist and Simcox as "two good men who understand we must never surrender our right as citizens to do our patriotic duty and defend our country ... and stop this invasion ourselves."
With this kind of vitriol coming from those in power in Washington and in the media is it any wonder why so many question the motivations of those who oppose any form of comprehensive immigration reform. When thousands took to the streets over the last few weeks many were there just as much to voice their displeasure with the growing undercurrent of racism in the debate as they were to show their support for undocumented immigrants. Many fully understand, particularly those in the Latino, Xicano, Asian and South Asian communities, that the hatred spewed by those wishing to "hunt illegals" is directed just as much at them as it is the at undocumented.
Back in May, when Antonio Villaraigosa was elected Mayor of LA, Gregory Rodriguez writing for Newsweek explained the problem that many in the Latino community face.
Villaraigosa's political ascent is a metaphor for the maturation of Mexican-American politics—a process that is more evolutionary than revolutionary, and, at bottom, a classic American story of ethnic integration into the mainstream.
Throughout American history, countless other ethnic groups have been stripped of their foreignness and have achieved mainstream acceptance. Political and cultural icons are often the vehicles for this cultural shift. In 1939, Life magazine complimented Italian-American ballplayer Joe DiMaggio for not reeking of garlic or using grease in his hair. By his retirement in 1951, however, it called him an all-American hero.
Of course, while European immigrant experiences generally had a beginning and an end, Mexican immigration has been virtually continuous for the past century. This has made the process of Mexican integration a perpetual one. But this dynamic hasn't so much retarded assimilation as it has sown confusion in the formulation of political and cultural identities. Though the self-definition of European-American groups gradually evolved from an immigrant to an ethnic American identity as time passed, Mexican-Americans have always had to contend with the presence of unassimilated newcomers as well as cyclical waves of anti-Mexican sentiment. Consequently, Mexican-Americans have had to battle against the presumption of foreignness longer than other ethnic groups.
What's happening with Mexican-Americans is happening to some extent among other Latino groups as well.
For those in the Asian community the situation is similar, albeit to a lesser extent.
The inability of some in "white" America to differentiate between "immigrants" and "Mexicans", South Americans from Central Americans, one Asian group from another, Arabs from Persians, Sikhs from Arabs, and worst of all - Arabs from terrorists, leaves many in minority ethnic groups finding much in common with those being targeted by the Tom Tancredos and Jim Sensenbrenners of the world. They know that when the minutemen rile against the "invasion" of their country by those from foreign countries … it's only a matter of time before their hatred will turn to all "foreigners", no matter where they came from, how they got here or how many generations their families might have been here.