Profiles of 20 Nativist Leaders
William Gheen, 39
The website of the influential political action committee Americans for Legal Immigration, commonly known as ALI-PAC, contains a list of "Gheen-isms," folksy nativist aphorisms from ALI-PAC founder William Gheen. Here's one example: "Call me old fashioned, but people should be able to shop at Wal-Mart without worrying about catching [t]uberculosis."
Gheen quit his job as a legislative assistant to North Carolina Sen. Hugh Webster (R-Alamance County) in April 2005 to form ALI-PAC in order to fight against the passage of House Bill 1138, which would have allowed certain non-citizens to qualify for in-state tuition rates at publicly funded North Carolina colleges and universities. Gheen disparagingly and falsely referred to the "Access to Higher Education and A Better Economic Future Act" as "in-state tuition for illegal aliens."
The bill was only sought to grant in-state tuition to immigrants who had graduated from high school after attending four consecutive years of public school in North Carolina and who supplied a sworn affidavit showing they were in the country legally and had applied for citizenship. By the time Gheen and his misinformation machine were finished, however, many North Carolina lawmakers and journalists, let alone average residents, were convinced the proposed law would instantly offer in-state tuition to any Mexican who hopped the border.
As a result, daily newspapers and TV stations began asking misleading poll questions. CBS affiliate WRAL Channel 5 News queried people about "a bill that would give children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition." The Wilmington Star asked readers, "Should children of illegal immigrants get in-state tuition rates at N.C. colleges?" without mentioning the necessary qualifications or that children born on U.S. soil are automatically citizens under the U.S. Constitution. The polls skewed heavily against the bill, and in the end it was soundly defeated.
Since his initial victory, Gheen has gone on national media outlets including CNN, FOX and National Public Radio to launch preemptive strikes against any bill or ordinance that he perceives as sympathetic to immigrants, and to support laws proposed to deny public benefits to immigrants, to empower local police to arrest Latinos on federal immigration charges, and to fine anyone who employs an undocumented immigrant. He even pressed for a Senate bill to fund a study of buying buses to deport immigrants in massive numbers. ALI-PAC is supported by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, recently designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, and allied with various Minuteman factions.
"The rallying cry is: Illegals Go Home!' Gheen declares on the ALI-PAC website. "No corporate propaganda will change the fact that most Americans do not want to surrender or capitulate to the lawless masses rushing into our nation."