Profiles of 20 Nativist Leaders
Wiley Drake, 64
Buena Park, Calif.
Official Minuteman Project Chaplain Wiley Drake, the pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., is a man full of contradictions.
On the one hand, he freely admits that since the mid-1980s his church has assisted illegal immigrants in obtaining citizenship by offering them free legal advice and paperwork assistance. On the other, Drake encourages "all my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters" to join the Minuteman Project — a group whose members have been characterized by President Bush as "vigilantes" but which Drake says is doing God's work. His church has donated blankets and food to Minutemen border patrols. And, as the OC Weekly points out: "Drake routinely uses his right-wing radio program to agitate against illegal immigrants and support the efforts of [nativist hardliner and U.S. Rep.] Tom Tancredo [R-Colo., until December, a presidential aspirant] to erect a 2000-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border."
While Drake is a devout Christian, he's not exactly a turn-the-other-cheek kind of guy. Last August, when Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a formal complaint with the IRS alleging that Wiley's endorsement of Mike Huckabee for president violated tax laws that prohibit churches and ministers from endorsing political candidates, Drake responded by calling on his followers to pray for the deaths of the nonprofit's staff. Drake's name also appeared as a signatory on a document on the Army of God website declaring support for James Kopp, who was convicted in 2003 of assassinating a doctor who performed abortions. Drake has since claimed that he did not authorize the posting of his name.
So far, Drake has struck a softer tone in his opposition to illegal immigration. When he led a "pro-America" rally in 2006, one week after the massive May 1 immigration-rights marches, he told reporters: "The people [illegal immigrants] are being misused and being paid ridiculously low wages. That's hurting us and them." But his efforts to frame the Minuteman agenda in human-rights terms were badly undercut when the "pro-America" crowd began chanting, "Mexicans go home!"