The Nativists

Around the country, an anti-immigration movement is spreading like wildfire. An array of activists is fanning the flames.

LUPE MORENO
AGE: 47
SANTA ANA, CALIF.

Lupe Moreno, an evangelical Christian who believes that homosexuals have been taken over by evil spirits and that body-piercing can turn people gay, has been fighting illegal immigration for nearly 12 years. Today, as president of Latino Americans for Immigration Reform, she advocates a military presence on the border and warns that any groups that don't agree "should be dealt with severely as entities promoting crime, terrorism, and instability against this nation and its citizens."

For Moreno, the battle is personal indeed. To hear her tell it to reporters and in speaking engagements nationwide, she has experienced nothing but misery at the hands of the undocumented. As a child, her smuggler dad brought a string of illegals into their home who raped and beat her regularly. An illegal shot her nephew, and another one killed a boy she knew. Still another illegal alien urinated on her lawn and made an obscene gesture at her when she protested. Even her husband, who she married at 16 and bore five children to, turned out poorly. The reason? Well, he, too, was a one-time illegal alien, and when Lupe Moreno went whole hog into the anti-immigration movement -- meeting up with Mexican-basher Barbara Coe in what she calls a "life-changing experience" -- they split. Her ex, Marcial Moreno, told a reporter that Lupe had turned into a racist under Coe's influence.

Moreno has been involved in the anti-immigration movement since 1994, when Californians passed Proposition 187, a measure that cut undocumented immigrants off from many benefits but was ultimately ruled unconstitutional. But she only met Coe some years later, and the pair has formed something of a mutual admiration society ever since. Moreno compares Coe, who recently admitted membership in a racist hate group, to Thomas Jefferson, John Wayne and Charlton Heston. Coe, for her part, says she wishes for "10 more" of Moreno -- no surprise, given the political utility of having prominent Hispanics in the anti-immigration movement.

Moreno is known for her extravagant statements. Not long ago, she compared the plight of Americans facing the illegal alien onslaught to that of the Jews facing Nazi death camps -- and worried that Americans were reacting to the threat in the same "passive" way that the Jews allegedly did. "These people start coming into our communities, they live among us, they steal our children's educations and our children's jobs and our jobs," Moreno told The (Riverside, Calif.,) Press-Enterprise last April. "Deport them," she demanded. "Each and every one of them."