Glenn Spencer is a vitriolic Mexican-basher and self-appointed guardian of the border who may have done more than anyone to spread the myth of a secret Mexican conspiracy to reconquer the Southwest (an effort supposedly known as "la reconquista"). He is the president and founder of American Border Patrol and is best known for his effort to establish a "shadow Border Patrol" by using citizen patrols and various sensors and surveillance equipment to track the movement of migrants crossing the Mexico-Arizona border.
In His Own Words
"Every illegal alien in our nation must be deported immediately. ...If we can bomb the TV station in Belgrade [in the former Yugoslavia], we can shut down [U.S. Spanish-language TV networks] Telemundo and Univision."
— 1999 comment on supposed Mexican plans to "reconquer" the U.S.
"Our country is being invaded by Mexico with hostile intentions. When it blows up, they can't say we didn't tell them, when the blood starts flowing on the border and in L.A. We're [talking] about la reconquista."
— American Patrol website, 2001
"Could there be a tipping point where frustrated Mexican drug gangs and their associated paramilitary units suddenly turn their wrath on both the United States and the government of Mexico? Could there be a wholesale slaughter of Americans in Mexico? Could there be assaults on border towns? Would Mexicans living in those towns join them?"
— American Patrol website, June 5, 2008
Spencer joined the anti-immigration movement in 1992, when he formed Voice of Citizens Together (originally Valley Citizens Together), also known as American Patrol, in California as a response to the violence he saw perpetrated by "Mexicans" during the L.A. riots prompted by the acquittal of four police officers who beat Rodney King. He was one the main backers in 1994 of Proposition 187, which aimed to bar children of undocumented migrants from schools and cut public services for the undocumented.
A fixture on local TV and radio stations (for several years he had his own syndicated radio show), he became one the hardest-line anti-immigrant ideologues, calling for the immediate round up and deportation of all undocumented workers, demanding the banning of all foreign-language TV and radio broadcasts, and insisting that the military be deployed to safeguard the border. His American Patrol website was largely a compilation of crime articles that falsely suggested Latinos were vastly more criminal than others and contained such vulgar items as a figure urinating on a well-known Latino leader.
Spencer also became one of the biggest proponents of the so-called Aztlan conspiracy theory. That theory is based on the "Plan Espiritual de Aztlan," a real document adopted in 1969 at the First National Chicano Liberation Youth Conference that originated in the student group MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan). A radical document that reflected the spirit of the times, the plan called on Chicanos (native-born Americans of Mexican ancestry) to "reclaim the land of their birth" and unite to fight "oppression, exploitation and racism." However, to Spencer and fellow anti-immigration extremists such as Barbara Coe, who leads the hate group California Coalition for Immigration Reform, it is nothing short of the founding document of a bona fide conspiracy endorsed and backed by Mexico and, in some versions, by most Mexican Americans. These activists have described it as an explicit plan to "reconquer" the seven Southwestern states and merge them with Mexico. As Glenn Spencer proclaimed at a rally in San Ysidro, Calif., on July 29, 2000: "The dream of conquering Aztlan lies deep in the heart of the Mexican psyche. … This explains why some are willing to risk death. Their goal is more than jobs, it is conquest. They believe what they are doing is noble. They are defying the Gringo to take back what is rightfully Mexico's." The Aztlan conspiracy continues to circulate in anti-immigration circles; even CNN's Lou Dobbs has suggested that it is real.
By 2000, Spencer had grown disillusioned with California, which was growing increasingly Latino and that year lost its white population majority. Proposition 187 was never ultimately enacted (after years in the courts, its provisions were effectively nullified by Gov. Gray Davis in 1998), and illegal immigration had by then receded as an effective hot-button issue in the state. Operation Gatekeeper in San Diego and similar efforts to enhance border security in highly populated areas like El Paso, Texas, had also begun to push immigration into more rural areas along the border. In 2002, Spencer finally abandoned the Golden State for Cochise County, Ariz., joining several other anti-immigrant activists including Minuteman co-founder Chris Simcox, who have relocated to the southern border.
Setting up operations in the Pueblo del Sol Subdivision in Sierra Vista, Ariz., Spencer created American Border Patrol —a slightly changed name for his old American Patrol group — a private organization that would serve as a "shadow Border Patrol." Using high-tech sensors, infrared video-cameras, and citizen volunteers roaming the often mountainous terrain on ATVs, Spencer's operation was designed to embarrass the federal government into fully militarizing the border by capturing images of undocumented workers on film and uploading them onto AmericanBorderPatrol.com for all to see. In July 2004, Glenn Spencer told the Arizona Daily Star that two of his men crossed a border fence separating the United States and Mexico carrying a fake weapon of mass destruction in a backpack to illustrate that the country's border is a national security risk.
Spencer was one of the first well-known anti-immigration activists to more or less openly court white supremacists and anti-Semites. He has attended conferences of American Renaissance magazine, which specializes in racist theories about blacks and others, and interviewed the magazine's editor, Jared Taylor, on his syndicated radio show. Another Spencer radio guest was California State University, Long Beach, Professor Kevin MacDonald, who is the architect of an elaborate anti-Semitic theory dressed up as evolutionary biology. Spencer also promoted on his website a booklet published by Taylor called The Color of Crime that claims to be a "relentlessly factual" study alleging — on the basis of Taylor's mixing up of all interracial crimes and race-motivated hate crimes — that blacks and Latinos are far more likely than whites to be hate criminals.
In recent years, Spencer worked on deploying an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), "The Border Hawk," to provide aerial images of illegal border crossings. However, the prototypes proved too complicated; he then switched to using a small fixed-wing airplane for his flyovers of the border. In 2008, Spencer's border activities once again brought him into contact with the authorities. In a letter he wrote to supporters that was cited by The Sierra Vista (Ariz.) Herald, he said he had apparently triggered a border security alert on Jan. 15 as he was flying from El Paso, Texas, in a Cessna 206. Spencer said two F-16 fighter aircraft intercepted his plane. "I was monitoring the progress of the government in securing our border, and I was intercepted by an F-16!" Spencer wrote, adding that it was possible that his aircraft had strayed into Mexico and then come back into the U.S. "I thought I was going to die!" he wrote. One F-16 pilot "made two passes within 100 feet of me!" Then Spencer, who never misses an opportunity to criticize the weak defense of America's southern border, went on to claim that he was the victim of government harassment.
Sometimes, Spencer's racial paranoia seems to get the better of him. One night in 2003, thinking he was hearing noises outside his Sierra Vista, Ariz., home — presumably the sounds of "illegal aliens" heading north — he grabbed a gun and started shooting into the dark outside. He managed to hit a neighbor's garage, among other things, and was charged with four felonies. In Spencer's case, his felony charges soon were reduced to one misdemeanor. He was fined $2,500 and given a year's probation. His lease was also terminated and he was forced to move out of his subdivision. He has since set up a new headquarters for American Border Patrol on a 10-acre property in an unincorporated part of Cochise County, 1,100 feet from the Mexican border.
In 2008, Spencer expanded from his usual angry attacks on Latinos to furious, explicitly racist and anti-Semitic tirades. Just before Christmas, Spencer issued a nearly hysterical Web posting entitled "Obama Threatens Nation," in which he described the incoming Obama Administration as "prepared to make a frontal assault on the sovereignty of the United States." In fact, he said, "Barack Obama represents the greatest threat to the United States of America since the Civil War. Brainwashed Americans have just voted to commit national suicide." The same month, Spencer wrote an article on his website with another provocative title: "Is Jew-Controlled Hollywood Brainwashing Americans?" In it, he assured readers that he had Jewish friends but added: "I fear, however, that this small handful of patriotic Americans are far outnumbered by liberal Jews who now have total control over our media."