The raging national debate over immigration is stoking the fires of racist extremism across the country. Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists are ratcheting up the intensity of their bloodthirsty "race war" rhetoric, and violent hate crimes against Hispanics, regardless of their immigration status, appear to be on the rise.
"The immigration furor has been critical to the growth we've seen in hate groups over the last several years," said Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which recently reported a 33 percent growth in hate groups over a five-year period, from 602 in 2000 to 803 in 2005.
"Hate groups think they've found an issue with racial overtones and a real resonance with the American public, and they are exploiting it as effectively as they can," he said. "They're trying to generate a hostile social climate that fosters bigotry and violence towards all Hispanics, whether they're in the country illegally or not."
In recent alarming events:
- On May 6, the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan held an anti-immigration rally in Russellville, Alabama, that drew more than 300 Klansmen and Klan supporters, including members of the neo-Nazi hate group Aryan Nations. At the rally, robed Klansmen burned a 22-foot-high cross and yelled, "Let's get rid of the Mexicans!"
- Also on May 6, when Hispanic families in Tucson gathered in a park to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, anti-immigration extremist Roy Warden arrived, strapped with a pistol, and led a demonstration. "Listen up, Mexican invaders," Warden said. "We will not permit you, the ignorant, the savage, the unwashed, to overrun us, as happened in Rome...Land must be paid for in blood. If any invader tries to take this land from us we will wash this land and nurture our soil with oceans of their blood!"
Warden later e-mailed a death threat to Isabel Garcia, a Tucson public defender who co-chairs the human rights group Derechos Humanos. The e-mail was titled, "Warden to Isabel Garcia: I will blow your freaking head off!"
- On April 29 a neo-Nazi in East Hampton, New York, was arrested for threatening two Hispanic teenagers with a machete and chainsaw, holding the blade to the throat of one while threatening to kill them.
- On April 22, a 17-year-old Hispanic high school football player was dragged from a suburban house party in Texas and savagely attacked by two white assailants, one of them a neo-Nazi skinhead, according to Harris County law enforcement officials.
Police said the attackers, Keith Robert Turner, 17, and David Henry Tuck, 18, apparently were enraged because the victim tried to kiss a young Hispanic girl they believed to be Caucasian. After forcing the Hispanic youth into a backyard, Turner and Tuck burned his neck with cigarettes, stomped his head with steel-toed boots, slashed his chest with a knife, all while shouting racial slurs. They then stripped him naked and sodomized him with a patio umbrella pole.
Tuck, the skinhead, kicked the pole repeatedly.
"I don't mean just a little bit," said Harris County prosecutor Mike Trent. "He kicked it in and shoved it so far in that he has caused major organ damage. It looks like they were really trying to kill him and torture him anyway they could."
The victim remains in critical condition.
- On April 3, a prominent anti-immigration leader in Arizona secretly contacted the nation's largest neo-Nazi organization to urge its leaders to launch a campaign of violence and harassment against undocumented immigrants. Border Guardians founder Laine Lawless, who has been interviewed on CNN and Fox News, sent an e-mail to Mark Martin, commander of the Western Ohio unit of the National Socialist Movement. The e-mail was titled, "How to GET RID OF THEM." The e-mail detailed 11 suggestions for ways to terrorize immigrants. "Maybe some of your warriors for the race would be the kind of people willing to implement these ideas," Lawless wrote.
Lawless' suggestions included: "Steal the money from any illegal walking into a bank or check cashing place," "Make every illegal alien feel the heat of being a person without status...I hear the rednecks in the South are beating up illegals as the textile mills have closed. Use your imagination," and "Discourage Spanish-speaking children from going to school. Be creative."
• On March 27, New Jersey-based neo-Nazi radio host Hal Turner called for the mass murder of Hispanics and the assassination of U.S. senators who support guest worker programs. "All of you who think there's a peaceful solution to these invaders are wrong. We're going to have to start killing these people," Turner said. "I advocate using extreme violence against illegal aliens. Clean your guns. Have plenty of ammunition. Find out where the largest gathering of illegal aliens will be near you. Go to the area well in advance, scope out several places to position yourself and then do what has to be done." Turner directed his listeners to a website that provides detailed instructions on constructing pipe bombs, ammonium nitrate "fertilizer bombs," car bombs, chlorine gas bombs, and other homemade explosive devices.