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In an Arizona Senate campaign in which immigration and border security have been center stage issues, it’s no surprise that Chris Simcox managed to insert himself back into local headlines. Since reinventing himself in 2002 as the charismatic founder of the vigilante border-watch group Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. (MCDC), Simcox has always found a way to command attention.
But the latest chapter in the Simcox saga has been more low-comedy soap opera than high-desert drama. It’s been years since Simcox was the subject of national media attention and a regular guest on Fox News and CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” He began his most recent attempt at a comeback with big ambitions, his goal nothing less than unseating sitting Republican senator John McCain. When his efforts went nowhere and he dropped out of the race, Simcox found himself back in the familiar position of issuing pleading E-mail messages to his remaining (and most gullible) supporters, begging them not to abandon him in his latest hour of financial and legal need.
As Hatewatch noted in early June, Simcox’s estranged wife, Alena Lyras Simcox, has accused him of threatening her and their children with loaded handguns on two occasions in late 2009. He also allegedly threatened to shoot police if his wife called them to their home in Scottsdale, Ariz. Although Simcox denies the allegations, in April a Phoenix judge ordered Simcox to move out of the Scottsdale house, surrender his guns and maintain a distance of 200 yards from his family. His next court hearing in the custody dispute is scheduled for August.
Now, in the July 9 edition of his increasingly self-pitying E-mail newsletter, “The Simcox Report,” Simcox accuses his wife of having been involved in an adulterous relationship with Stacey O’Connell, a former member of the MCDC with whom Simcox has been feuding for years, since November of 2009. (O’Connell has denied the allegation.) Simcox charges that ever since O’Connell was thrown out of the MDCD in 2007, the self-described (but unlicensed) “bounty hunter” has “been engaged in an obsessive, devious plan to ruin my personal life.” In mid-June, in fact, O’Connell’s Fugitive Recovery Services of Arizona issued a “Wanted” poster for Simcox, saying that O’Connell had been hired by Lyras to serve the protective ordered granted to Lyras by the court. In the E-mail, Simcox treats his supporters to a large selection of text messages he says O’Connell has sent him in recent weeks, including one taunting, “i chased your skinny little ass right out of the state, youre such a little man (sic).” ( continue to full post… )
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William Gheen, the obstreperous head of the nativist group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, or ALIPAC, has pulled his group out of all June Arizona rallies backing that state’s controversial new illegal immigration law. Gheen said he is doing so because former Colorado Republican congressman Tom Tancredo, one of the country’s most hard-line opponents of illegal immigration, is supporting one event in which racist skinheads and neo-Nazis may be involved.
That rally, scheduled for June 5 in Phoenix, is being organized by Dan Smeriglio, founder of Voice of the People USA, an anti-illegal immigration group based in Pennsylvania. Gheen says it could hurt, not help, the efforts of those supporting SB 1070, the bill signed last month by Gov. Jan Brewer giving police wide latitude to detain anybody they think may be in the country illegally and making failure of non-citizens to carry immigration documents a crime. Critics say the law will subject Latinos, whether citizens or not, to racial profiling and police harassment in a state whose population is 30% Hispanic. President Obama, among others, has criticized the law, and a number of cities around the country have voted to protest it by halting business travel to Arizona and banning contracts with businesses there.
Gheen supports the law and initially favored the June 5 rally. But he notified supporters on Tuesday that ALIPAC won’t be attending or promoting any rallies scheduled next month in Arizona to support SB 1070. “We will have no future dealings with Dan Smeriglio or retired Congressman Tom Tancredo due to the neo-Nazi connections and this disaster they have cooked up in Arizona that puts our issue at risk,” Gheen wrote.
Gheen became concerned after a Philadelphia-based anti-hate group called One People’s Project criticized ALIPAC for associating with Smeriglio, who it said was working with racist skinheads. Gheen checked and concluded that was true. He learned, for example, that among the “friends” that Smeriglio listed on his Facebook page was Steve Smith, a regional coordinator of Keystone United, a Pennsylvania racist skinhead group with several chapters. Smith’s Facebook page also indicated he’s a fan of a Swedish white nationalist singer named Saga, whose ditties have included “Goodbye, David Lane.” Lane, a convicted terrorist who died in 2007 while serving a 190-year prison sentence, remains one of the most revered figures in the white nationalist movement. He came up with the famous “14 Words” slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” ( continue to full post… )
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As the debate intensifies over Arizona’s harsh new law aimed at undocumented immigrants, nativist groups are claiming that opponents of the measure support nothing less than the reconquest of the Southwest by Mexicans.
Though the myth of “la reconquista” — a purported secret Mexican conspiracy to take back part of the United States — has long pervaded the nativist movement, anti-immigrant groups recently have been using it to portray critics of the Arizona law as anti-American. The law, which detractors (including Southern Poverty Law Center lawyers) say would lead to racial profiling, gives police the authority to arrest people suspected of being undocumented if they have some other reason to make contact with them.
Some of the most overheated rhetoric came from Peter Brimelow, the British immigrant who runs the anti-immigrant hate site VDARE.com. In a VDARE.com post last week titled “Help VDARE.COM Resist [Raul] Grijalva’s Reconquista!,” Brimelow vilifies the U.S. representative from Arizona who vowed at a Phoenix rally to “overturn the power structure that created this unjust, racist law.” Brimelow asserts that “Grijalva is not an immigrant but a Mexican colonizer and what he’s against is not the ‘power structure’ — he’s against America.”
Pat Byrne, the executive director of the Patriots Coalition, another nativist group, also took aim at Grijalva. “Grijalva is supported by the same cast of characters who have crawled out of their political sewers to support his irredentist views,” Byrne wrote in an E-mail last weekend to followers. “Irredentist” means advocating the reclamation of territory formerly belonging to one’s country — presumably a reference to Grijalva’s supposed goal of returning part of the Southwest to Mexico. In an April 18 mass E-mail, Patriots Coalition President Al Garza (a former Minuteman leader) called another congressman, U.S. Rep. Luis Guitierrez (D-Ill.), “Mexico’s #1 reconquista agent.”
Not to be outdone, Glenn Spencer, who heads the American Border Patrol hate group, posted a picture of the United States on his website last Friday with a Mexican flag superimposed on the Southwest. “The Mayor of Los Angeles [Antonio Villaraigosa] is a lackey of the Mexican government,” Spencer wrote. “His [sic] has declared war on U.S. sovereignty.”
Jim Gilchrist, a founding father of the Minuteman movement and the leader of the Minuteman Project, also weighed in last week by attacking not just public figures but all undocumented immigrants. The headline on his website proclaimed, “Minuteman Project says: Illegal Aliens Trying to Strong Arm Arizona.” He continued: “The illegal aliens are proving our point. The Minutemen have for a long time held the line that illegal aliens haven’t come here to work but to colonize.”
Minuteman Project Executive Director Stephen Eichler also heads TeaParty.org — part of the libertarian-tinged grassroots protest movement — so perhaps his group’s overwrought defense of Arizona is no surprise. An E-mail to supporters asked: “Are we to guarantee domestic tranquility for the rest of the world while our own Citizens hide in their homes for fear of an invading army of trespassers?”
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A major nativist group known for its armed border patrols is disbanding.
In a Monday E-mail to supporters, Minuteman Civil Defense Corps President Carmen Mercer said the MCDC will no longer exist as an organization, though she encouraged supporters to continue its work independently. “I predict Americans, on their own, will lock, load and do what the feckless cowards in Washington refuse to do — and frankly I hope Americans do take up arms to defend this great nation,” she wrote in the “urgent alert.”
MCDC is an offshoot of the Minuteman Project, a month-long civilian border patrol that was covered extensively by journalists five years ago. (Then-President George W. Bush called the Minutemen “vigilantes” in March 2005.) In 2009, MCDC had at least 74 chapters in nearly 30 states, making it the biggest of the Minuteman spin-off groups. But MCDC and the larger Minuteman movement have been plagued by infighting, allegations of financial impropriety and civil litigation. In addition, the leader of Minuteman American Defense (MAD) was charged with the May 2009 murder of a 9-year-old Latina girl and her father during a home invasion in Arivaca, Ariz., setting off furious accusations and counter-accusations over who had supported MAD’s Shawna Forde over the years.
The announcement of MCDC’s dissolution also followed an E-mail Mercer sent a week earlier, in which she urged supporters to bring their long arms to the border and to “forcefully engage” the “criminals” who try to cross without documentation. Mercer wrote on Monday that she received hundreds of responses to that E-mail, including some that sounded over-enthusiastic. “It was obvious that many had decided to return to the border who had tired of the sometimes futile watch and observe methods. It showed me that people are not willing to be silenced anymore; it also showed me that people will be less likely to follow the rules of engagement in a desperate attempt to stop the criminals who violate our borders every day. That is not what we want and we cannot take the responsibility for this.” ( continue to full post… )
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As thousands of people prepare to rally in Washington, D.C., this Sunday for immigration reform, nativist extremist groups are unleashing their own campaigns to counter the event.
NumbersUSA today launched “S.T.O.P. Amnesty in Four Days,” a drive to derail any immigration reform package that includes a citizenship provision for undocumented immigrants. During the four-day campaign, NumbersUSA supporters will lobby members of Congress by faxing, calling and visiting their offices. The group, including its president and founder Roy Beck, will also have a presence at the march and will feature a live webcast of the event on its homepage.
Though NumbersUSA states on its website that it’s against immigrant-bashing, that’s apparently not true of all the group’s supporters. During last week’s NumbersUSA conference call to mobilize for S.T.O.P. Amnesty, one participant asserted that activists need to let Mexican immigrant women know that they are the new “welfare queens” because they rely on U.S. tax dollars to take care of their babies, according to the Colorado Independent. NumbersUSA’s director for social media marketing, Chad MacDonald, who was moderating the call, said he appreciated the point. “We will make a note of that,” he responded. “Thank you very much.” Another caller said the children of Mexican immigrants should be called dependents rather than babies. “They have dependents,” the caller said. “We have babies.”
Among those taking part in the S.T.O.P. Amnesty campaign is William Gheen’s Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), which “will be working around the clock this coming weekend,” according to a news release from ALIPAC. The group is also planning its own opposition to the pro-reform march, urging people to sign up for “Tea Party Against Amnesty” protests nationwide on April 15. (ALIPAC organized a first round of anti-amnesty tea parties last November.) ( continue to full post… )
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The leader of the nativist extremist group Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC) publicly repudiates the use of illegal tactics to secure the border against undocumented immigrants. “If one single individual steps over the line for their personal gratification, we are all stained with that irresponsible behavior, and labeled forever as a fringe element that embarrasses all who are counting on us to make a historic statement,” MCDC President Carmen Mercer wrote on the group’s website.
But Mercer doesn’t sound nearly so careful in a recent E-mail to Minutemen that repeatedly asks them to come to the border “locked and loaded” — military jargon for an assault rifle that’s ready for firing — and prepared to “forcefully engage” the “criminals” who try to cross without documentation. Monday’s “urgent alert” announced an armed border patrol operation that’s scheduled to begin on March 26 and to last until the U.S. military is deployed to secure the border.
“President Obama and John McCain have left us no choice – this March we return to the border locked, loaded and ready to stop each and every individual we encounter along the frontier that is now more dangerous than the frontier of Afghanistan,” Mercer wrote in part. “This operation will not be for the faint of heart. MCDC volunteers will work under an entire different SOP [standard operating procedure]; we will approach our duty as citizens as we should – we have a zero tolerance for any and all violations of our border and we will forcefully engage, detain, and defend our lives and country from the criminals who trample over our culture and laws. Long arms will be allowed and frankly, encouraged.”
Though MCDC has conducted armed border patrols before (and they’re perfectly legal under Arizona’s lenient gun laws), Mercer’s latest rhetoric is especially shrill. In the E-mail, she referred to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as “an unqualified buffoon who risks the lives of American citizens every day she is the head of DHS.” She also states that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has been more sympathetic to immigrants than many in his party, “is responsible for every death of an American citizen at the hands of illegal alien criminals and the drug cartels.”
Mercer, of Tombstone, Ariz., did not respond to an E-mail message sent yesterday seeking clarification of her statements. In addition, her voice mail was full and would not accept messages. A German immigrant and longtime Minuteman leader, Mercer was named in lawsuit filed by the Arizona attorney general’s last summer after a post office box she owned was included in a property tax solicitation aimed at scamming homeowners. Mercer claimed that she had opened the post office box for a friend and didn’t know it would be used in the alleged fraud.
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Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released its annual “Year in Hate and Extremism” report. Broad-based populist anger at political, demographic and economic changes in America ignited an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across the nation.
The SPLC documented a 244 percent increase in the number of active “Patriot” groups in 2009. “Patriot” groups and the paramilitary arm of the movement, the militias, are steeped in wild, antigovernment conspiracy theories and see the federal government as their enemy. Their numbers grew from 149 groups in 2008 to 512 groups in 2009, an astonishing addition of 363 new groups in a single year. Militias were a major part of the increase, growing from 42 in 2008 to 127 in 2009.
The numbers back up an August report by the SPLC, “The Second Wave: Return of the Militias,” that first documented the return of antigovernment extremist groups. The movement came roaring back to life after more than a decade of decline. The increase is worrying as the 1990s Patriot movement was associated with high levels of violence, most dramatically the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead.
The growth of Patriot groups comes at a time when the number of hate groups stayed at record levels – rising from 926 in 2008 to 932 in 2009, according to the report. The increase caps a decade in which the number of hate groups surged by 55 percent. The expansion would have been much greater in 2009 if not for the demise of the American National Socialist Workers Party, a key neo-Nazi network whose founder was arrested in October 2008.
There also has been a surge in “nativist extremist” groups – vigilante organizations that go beyond advocating strict immigration policy and actually confront or harass suspected immigrants. These groups grew from 173 groups in 2008 to 309 in 2009, a rise of nearly 80 percent.
These three strands of the radical right – the hate groups, the nativist extremist groups, and the Patriot organizations – are the most volatile elements on the American political landscape. Taken together, their numbers increased by more than 40 percent, rising from 1,248 groups in 2008 to 1,753 last year.
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Lou Dobbs and Americans for Legal Immigration – ALIPAC – are divorcing, and the parting isn’t amicable. ALIPAC President William Gheen has notified supporters that his organization has withdrawn its support of Dobbs and suspended two websites promoting the former CNN showman for president.
In a lengthy E-mail, the heartsick nativist said it was “painful” to realize he misjudged Dobbs, and that ALIPAC hopes to “put this painful episode behind us.” Gheen added contritely, “We apologize to our supporters for being wrong about Dobbs.” ( continue to full post… )
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San Diego Minutemen leader Jeff Schwilk has long taken pleasure in harassing immigrants.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that he wrote a vicious E-mail to supporters threatening a federal judge who ruled in favor of an undocumented immigrant killed by a Border Patrol agent.
“This judge should be immediately dragged out, arrested and sent to Gitmo for crimes against our country!” Schwilk wrote in the E-mail titled “Death Penalty for Rock Throwers.” “Or better yet, tie him to a post near the border fence in Douglas [Ariz.] and attach 10 burritos to him as bait for these innocent little Mexican rock throwers! Put a sign next to him that says, ‘I work for the U.S. Border Patrol.’ He wouldn’t last 10 minutes. Bastard!”
Along with his comments, Schwilk forwarded an Associated Press article about the ruling in a civil lawsuit brought by the victim’s family, who was awarded $350,000. According to the AP story, U.S. District Judge Raner Collins decided that the Border Patrol agent used excessive force when he fatally shot an undocumented immigrant, 22-year-old Ricardo Olivares Martinez. The shooting occurred after an agent encountered a group of undocumented immigrants near the Arizona-Mexico border in 2003. Among them was Martinez, who tossed rocks at Agent Cesar Cervantes even after he was ordered to stop. Cervantes said he responded with deadly force because his life was in danger. The judge disagreed, saying the agent “was not in imminent danger from the deceased.”
Schwilk took exception to that finding. “If an illegal alien ever throws a rock (deadly weapon) at me, he’s a dead man! Only lethal force will be used in deadly situations. This is absolutely outrageous!”
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A recent story in The [Everett, Wash.] Daily Herald detailing the troubled past of border vigilante Shawna Forde has provoked yet another round of crossfire among leaders of rival Minuteman factions and other prominent nativists.
It all began when Forde, who heads Minutemen American Defense (MAD), reported several brutal attacks this winter and implied that she’d been targeted because of her anti-illegal immigration efforts. Although the incidents are still under investigation, The Herald published a revealing profile of Forde in late February that provided more fodder for both her critics and her supporters within the anti-immigration movement. The article described a difficult childhood — including a stint in foster care and allegations of physical and sexual abuse — a lengthy criminal record that began when she was 11, the loss of a baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and problems with mental illness. Forde also told The Herald that the perpetrators of the attacks might have been local criminals rather than Hispanic gang members.
Forde ally and Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrist wrote that he’d spoken to Forde about the article and that she thought it was “reasonably fair and balanced.”
“Despite Shawna Forde’s checkered past, here is a woman who really has been a ‘victim’ throughout her life, perhaps willingly, perhaps unwillingly,” he posted on Immigration Clearinghouse the day after The Herald article appeared. “To have come through the trials and uncertainties of adolescence and young adulthood with odds stacked against you, and to have overcome those odds, is a statement of her willingness to ultimately do the right thing.”
Then he took aim at Forde’s detractors. “Few of us do not have a skeleton in our closet, especially some of Forde’s harshist [sic] critics.”
One of those critics is William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, who alluded to The Herald article in a message posted on his website. “This e-mail is to inform you that some of our worst fears are now confirmed in the media and the damage to our movement is getting worse,” he wrote. “Despite new revelations that there are major problems with Shawna’s story, that she is refusing to fully cooperate with police, has an extensive criminal record, has made outlandish claims in the past, proclaims she has mental illness and disorders, has made false claims to the media, etc. … Jim Gilchrist is standing by Shawna Forde and her story!” ( continue to full post… )