The Legislators: The Dirty Dozen
What follows are short profiles of a dozen of State Legislators for Legal Immigration's more outspoken members — men and women from Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Washington, four of whom hold leadership positions in their legislatures — whose radicalism gives a sense of just how far from the mainstream the group's goals really are. None of the 12 lawmakers replied to requests for comment for this report.
TIM BEARDEN, 43
Georgia House of Representatives
Villa Rica, Ga.
Tim Bearden is a big fan of the Confederacy. He's a proud member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), a group that calls the Civil War the "Second American Revolution" and whose ranks are shot through with extremists. At a Confederate Day event in April 2010, Bearden told an SCV gathering, "The folks we are honoring understood individual liberties—they fought for that." Never mind that they fought to keep others in chains.
Bearden led the charge against changing the Georgia State Flag that flew from 1956 until 2001 and prominently included the image of the Confederate battle flag. That flag was raised, essentially, as a racist symbol of defiance against the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision. For years after the flag was changed, Bearden continued to agitate for a vote to bring it back. "People used the Southern heritage groups for their votes, then turned their backs on them," Bearden lamented in 2005.
Bearden also is a believer in the conspiracy theory that a secretive North American Union is being planned by global elites that would open the borders between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada and essentially merge the countries. "I have been very aware for a very long time that a lot of the governmental and media elite have a goal of open borders," Bearden told a reporter in 2007 after he and veteran Georgia immigrant-basher D.A. King jointly condemned a Mexico-United States-Canadian meeting then being held in Quebec. (The meeting was one of a series held by the tri-national Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America to improve cooperation on security and economic issues.) Bearden has pushed several anti-immigrant bills in the Georgia legislature, including one that would have required driver's license tests to be given in English and another that would seize vehicles involved in "undocumented immigrant traffic violations."
Another of Bearden's passions is guns — lots of guns, in lots of places. In 2008, Bearden tried to force Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to allow concealed weapons. He pushed a bill, which later became law, that declared the airport a public place, which Bearden said meant it would be required to allow firearms. Daring airport officials to arrest him the day the law took effect, Bearden said: "I have a permit, and I have family I have to pick up at the airport tomorrow. I'll have one [concealed weapon] with me at all times." The airport's general manager replied to Bearden's posturing with a simple statement: "I can identify him, and I'll have him arrested."
Bearden ultimately backed down, but not on pro-gun legislation. The next year, Bearden sponsored a law that would allow people to carry weapons in state parks and restaurants that serve alcohol and on mass transit. In 2010, Bearden was back with a bill that would allow people to take firearms into hospitals, onto college campuses, and, specifically, into airports.
Bearden also has been embroiled in a political scandal. In 2009, it emerged that the City of Carrollton, Ga., had paid Bearden nearly $100,000 over four years to serve as a "consultant." City officials were asked and failed to produce anything to show what Bearden had done for them. Later, the officials said that Bearden helped with the annual Toys for Tots program, but an area organizer for the charity drive said there were no records of any work by Bearden. According to a report in the Times-Georgian, "a plethora of problems" existed in Bearden's contract, including the fact that it was not in writing and "there are no verifiable job duties" required.
LEO BERMAN, 75
Texas House of Representatives
Leo Berman has a well-deserved reputation for harsh rhetoric and general nastiness. In a 2007 speech, for example, he falsely blamed undocumented immigrants for 70% of all births in Houston's public hospitals and for most of the criminal gangs in the state's major cities. According to the Daily Kos, Berman went on to say that illegal immigrants were bringing polio, the plague, leprosy, tuberculosis, malaria, chagas disease and dengue fever to the United States "in alarming numbers." (Similar claims by former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs about leprosy and immigrants were completely debunked.)
Berman's attacks on immigrants didn't stop there. He has put forth bills to bar illegal immigrants from public universities and tax money orders sent between Texas and Mexico. And in 2007, Berman filed what may have been the first-ever bill to challenge the 14th Amendment's promise of birthright citizenship. H.B. 28 would have denied state benefits and any kind of license to any person born in Texas whose parents were not legal residents.
In 2009, Berman got into a shouting match with Chinese-American immigration lawyer Harry Joe over Berman's proposed legislation to create "sanctuary cities" in Texas. Normally, sanctuary cities are understood to mean places that do not actively try to move against undocumented immigrants. But in Berman's bill, the sanctuaries would instead use Texas state troopers to "restrict" undocumented immigrants to certain geographic areas — an idea reminiscent of the separate homelands created by the apartheid government in South Africa for black people. During their exchange, Berman told Harry Joe, an American citizen, to "go home," adding that Joe could "kiss [his] ass." House Speaker Joe Strauss, a fellow Republican, has characterized such diatribes as "Leo's vitriol."
Berman, who routinely disparages President Obama, is a "birther" — a man who does not believe the president was born in the United States despite all the evidence. At a rally in April 2010 in Tyler hosted by FOX News' Glenn Beck (himself no stranger to extremist rhetoric), Berman said, "I believe that Barack Obama is God's punishment on us today." In November, Berman introduced a bill that would require future presidential and vice-presidential candidates that file in Texas to produce their "original birth certificate" to Texas' secretary of state. "This bill is necessary because we have a president whom the American people don't know whether he was born in Kenya or some other place," he said. On the same day that Berman filed the birther bill, he also pre-filed seven anti-immigration bills.
Berman's latest crusade is against Shariah — Muslim religious law. In January, Berman introduced a bill that would mandate that "[a] court of this state may not enforce, consider, or apply any religious or cultural law" — a completely pointless suggestion, given that judges are prohibited by the Constitution from doing any such thing. The bill didn't specifically say Shariah, but Berman's statements make it pretty plain what he has in mind. "A lot of federal courts are referring to international courts and laws of other countries," he claimed recently. "We want to make sure our courts are not doing this, especially in regards to cultural laws. If that includes Sharia law, then so be it."
JUDY BURGES, 67
Arizona House of Representatives
Skull Valley, Ariz.
Judy Burges flaunts her participation in the armed border-watch activities conducted by the anti-immigrant Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC) vigilante group. When MCDC head Chris Simcox challenged Sen. John McCain in last year's GOP primary, Burges backed Simcox, an anti-immigrant conspiracist who has claimed to have personally witnessed Chinese Red Army troops maneuvering on the U.S.-Mexican border. Burges also is an original sponsor of S.B. 1070, Arizona's punishing anti-immigrant ordinance that is now caught up in the federal courts. Between 2006 and 2010, Burges voted yes on 15 anti-immigrant House bills.
Burges' latest cause célèbre is the "birther" bill she introduced this January. It would require all presidential candidates to show proof of citizenship, in the form of an affidavit from the candidate and "an original long form birth certificate that includes the date and place of birth, the names of the hospital and the attending physician and signatures of the witnesses in attendance." (Sadly for future candidates, many perfectly legal birth certificates list no witnesses.) Arizona's secretary of state would make the final call on whose names would grace the ballot. The bill, which is expected to pass, would take effect before the 2012 election.
Burges told the Arizona Daily Star that the measure is not necessarily about Obama — although she does doubt the president was born in Hawaii, as he claims. Burges has other problems with Obama, in particular his relationship to Muslims. "When someone bows to the king of Saudi Arabia and they apologize for our country around the world, I have a problem with that," she told a reporter. Her suspicions about Obama go beyond that well-publicized bow. "Obama has a book and it said … he would be on the Muslim side," Burges continued. "Doesn't that bother you just a little bit?"
Burges is no fan of gay rights — not by a long shot. In 1999, when Rep. Barbara Blewster came under attack for claiming that cultures that embrace gay people also celebrate such things as bestiality and human sacrifice, Burges wrote to her local paper in support of Blewster. Her fellow legislator, Burges wrote, was a picture of "impeccable moral character, integrity and honesty."
Rep. Blewster "was right about bestiality and cannibalism. You've been dining on her flesh almost daily," Burges complained. Burges' website adds that heterosexual marriage has been the "bedrock of civilization from the beginning of recorded history." "We should not allow intolerance by the few to pre-empt the settled moral judgment of civilization," it says.
Burges is also a committed gun enthusiast. Out of 17 bills listed on her website, a full quarter pertain to firearms. She is a firm believer in the right to carry concealed weapons.
Early this February, she introduced a bill that would make evidence collected during a 911 call to police inadmissible in court. (Statements made on 911 calls are frequently useful evidence in prosecutions.)
The reason? Burges' bill reportedly was the legislative answer to the conviction of Phoenix store owner Roger Garfield, who killed an unarmed homeless man and was later found guilty of manslaughter. Garfield claimed self-defense, but that was contradicted by statements he made in 911 calls.
SALLY KERN, 64
Oklahoma House of Representatives
Oklahoma City, Okla.
Sally Kern is one serious gay-basher. She thinks gays and lesbians are "the biggest threat" to the U.S., "even more than terrorism or Islam." In a particularly inflammatory talk she gave in 2008, she said: "If you got cancer or something in your little toe, do you say, well, you know, I'm just going to forget about it because the rest of me is fine? It spreads. OK? [Gay rights]…will destroy this nation." Kern argues that no society that has embraced gay rights has ever lasted more than a few decades and she constantly frets that gays are "going after our children, as young as two years of age."
In July 2009, Kern and other legislators signed her "Oklahoma Citizen's Proclamation for Morality." The document blamed the economic downturn on abortion, pornography, divorce and same sex marriage. It said nothing about Wall Street greed or regulatory failures, but it did condemn the president — who had declared June "Gay Pride Month" — for disregarding "the biblical admonitions to live clean and pure lives by proclaiming an entire month to an immoral behavior."
That's not all. Sally Kern also is against high-resolution driver's license photos, which she believes are a sign of the end times. The Oklahoman reported that Kern said the photos could enter a government database where "[y]ou wouldn't know that they are identifying you." Kern's concern is that the Book of Revelation mentions "a one-world government and everybody will be enrolled into a system and have to have a certain mark in order to buy, sell, and trade." The more detailed driver's licenses, apparently, would allow that to happen.
Kern sounds a little calmer when she talks about immigration — a little. She supports a bill requiring schools to get proof of citizenship from their students. When Latinos voiced concerns that the bill's real aim is to force the children's parents to leave the country — Supreme Court precedent establishes that undocumented children are entitled to attend public schools so the proposed law is basically pointless — she responded: "We just want to see how much money is being spent on people who are not citizens from Oklahoma."
Now, by joining State Legislators for Legal Immigration, she has signed on to the effort to end birthright citizenship, which has been recognized by the nation's courts for decades.
CHARLES KEY, 57
Oklahoma House of Representatives
Oklahoma City, Okla.
Charles Key is an antigovernment conspiracy theorist. He gained notoriety following the Oklahoma City bombing when he claimed that the federal government knew in advance about the attack that left 168 people dead and engaged in a "cover-up" afterward. Key even managed to get a county grand jury convened to look into his theory. When the grand jury reported in 1999 that it had found no evidence of government complicity or advance knowledge, Key's immediate response was to denounce the very grand jury that he'd created.
Key's views are popular on the antigovernment "Patriot" circuit, and he has appeared at many Patriot events. At a 2009 conference, he recommended repealing the 16th and 17th Amendments (authorizing the federal income tax and the direct popular election of senators, respectively) in order to curtail the reach of the federal government.
Key expanded on his antigovernment views in the 2010 film "Don't Tread on Me — the Rise of the Republic," which was produced by antigovernment conspiracist Gary Franchi and claims to offer "sound solutions to take back rights stolen by our out-of-control, despotic federal government." In the film, Key says the U.S. now has "a tyrannical government, a government that's violating the rights of the citizens and violating the law." Key has also appeared repeatedly on the Austin, Texas-based radio show of Alex Jones, a major Patriot icon and one of the nation's leading conspiracy theorists.
In April 2010, Key and another legislator met with J.W. Berry, leader of the Tulsa-based Tea Party, to discuss legislation to form a state-run militia. Berry is infamous for his online rants about Obama; he reportedly calls him "the Muslim president" and a "reincarnation of Pol Pot" who is trying to imprison Americans for resisting healthcare. One of Berry's postings said that his militia should launch 1,000 guerrilla attacks "on the plans that these people have to ruin us and our country." None of this prevented Key from soliciting Berry's advice, although he did retreat on the proposed legislation after it was criticized across the nation. In the end, he said he wasn't sure if the bill would be introduced this year after all.
Key also supports fellow Oklahoma lawmaker Randy Terrill's recently passed (and completely unnecessary) ban on using Shariah law in state courts. He regularly sponsors and votes for anti-immigration and English-as-official-state-language laws.
Last June, Key spoke at an event in Topeka, Kan., put on by the hard-line nativist group, Federal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Coalition. There, Key touted the State Legislators for Legal Immigration's efforts to "eliminate the misapplication of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as it has been utilized to secure citizenship for the children of illegal aliens and their families."
DARYL METCALFE, 48
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Cranberry Township, Pa.
Daryl Metcalfe is the founder and driving force behind State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI), which he launched in 2007 with the help of the anti-immigrant hate group, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). He regularly describes immigrants as "invaders." At an SLLI press conference Metcalfe held this January regarding the group's 14th Amendment "reform" efforts, Metcalfe said, "We want to bring an end to the illegal alien invasion that is having such a negative impact in our states."
Metcalfe routinely demonizes immigrants as criminals despite studies that clearly show that they are, on average, much less so than American natives. "You hear story after story about the murders, rapes, and threats," he said at a press conference this past May. "It's one crime after another committed by people who should not be here." He is particularly incensed about what he derisively calls "anchor babies" — children born to undocumented immigrants who get citizenship as a result of being born here — and suggests that their parents are guilty of child abuse. "If an American citizen were to do the things to a baby that these people do to have 'anchor baby' status, you would probably be charged with child abuse," Metcalfe said last October. "We do not let Americans who live the life of a criminal keep their children."
Early in 2008, Metcalfe held up voting on a routine Pennsylvania House proclamation honoring the 60th annual convention in Harrisburg of a Muslim group, saying that he wouldn't vote for the measure because Muslims "do not recognize Jesus Christ as God." Similarly, in September 2009, Metcalfe held up a resolution declaring October "Domestic Violence Awareness Month." This time, he improbably claimed that the effort was part of the "homosexual agenda" because it included men as possible victims of domestic violence.
The same year, Metcalfe refused an invitation to speak to Operation Free, a veterans group concerned that dependence on foreign energy sources and climate change threaten national security. As a matter of fact, he sent an E-mail to every member of the Pennsylvania House saying: "As a veteran, I believe that any veteran lending their name, to promote the leftist propaganda of global warming and climate change … is a traitor to the oath he or she took [to] defend the Constitution of our great nation!" He added, "Remember Benedict Arnold before giving credibility to a veteran who uses their service as a means to promote a leftist agenda."
Not surprisingly, Daryl Metcalfe is a birther. In an interview with the far-right "news" site World Net Daily in November, Metcalfe said he would soon propose legislation "that would require presidential candidates to prove their natural born citizenship before they are allowed to file petitions to have their name on the state ballot."
BRIAN NIEVES, 45
Although he is of Puerto Rican descent, Brian Nieves, a newly elected state senator and the former majority whip of Missouri's House of Representatives, reacted angrily in 2008 after President Obama suggested that American children learn Spanish in addition to English. The president, Nieves said, had "belittle[d] the feelings of the majority of Americans."
This January, Nieves threw what the Kansas City alternative newspaper The Pitch called "his first tantrum of the year" on the floor of the state Senate when he learned that Missouri's Democratic attorney general had built a Spanish-language website for that office in 2009. Nieves claimed it broke the state's "English-only" law.
A self-described "Patriot candidate," Nieves says he is part of a "Patriot uprising" and even named his talk radio show The Patriot Enclave. Nieves also is a major star of the film, "Don't Tread on Me—the Rise of the Republic," which was produced by Patriot conspiracist Gary Franchi. In the film, Nieves says that "with the election of President Barack Hussein Obama … I think people finally realized, 'Hey, this is our government; this is our nation, and we're going to take it back.' I think that's what gave birth to the Patriot uprising."
Nieves appears a dozen times in the film discussing state sovereignty alongside such hard-core members of the antigovernment movement as Alex Jones, a conspiracy-monger who believes the federal government was involved in the Oklahoma City bombing, and Richard Mack, the former Arizona sheriff who preaches that county sheriffs don't have to obey the federal government.
During a 2009 "Boot Camp" put on by the Show Me Patriots, Nieves warned darkly: "Sooner or later there's going to have to be a showdown. So be encouraged, be motivated … because 30 years from now, somebody's going to ask you what you did during the Patriot uprising. … And it's my prayer that you'll be able to say you were right in the middle of it and that you had a piece of this fight."
Nieves, who once described the torture technique of waterboarding as putting "a little water in the face," was allegedly in a real fight last year. The Kansas City Star reported on Aug. 9, 2010, that Nieves was at the center of a complaint made to police by a campaign worker for Nieves' opponent in the state Senate primary, Dick Stratman. When the staffer, Shawn Bell, stopped by Nieves' headquarters to congratulate the winner, Nieves allegedly threw Bell against a wall and then drew a gun on him. Bell alleged that Nieves then berated him, threatened to kill him, and asked him if he was wearing a "wire." Nieves then allegedly head-butted and slapped Bell, pulled him into an office where Nieves looked through Bell's phone, made him take off his shirt, and made Bell call his wife to apologize to her for things that happened during the campaign. No criminal charges were ever filed in the case.
In a rambling E-mail Nieves sent to supporters after the incident, he wrote: "We did something The Machine did not want done and for that the Nieves family is indeed being punished and made an example of!"
RUSSELL PEARCE, 63
Arizona State Senate
If there were a Hall of Fame for immigrant-hating legislators, Russell Pearce, the new president of the Arizona State Senate, would be unanimously voted in. The author of dozens of anti-immigrant bills over the last decade, Pearce is obsessed with the issue. "I will not back off until we solve the problem of this illegal invasion," the state senator said in 2008. "Invaders, that's what they are."
Pearce rose to the heights of Arizona state politics from inauspicious beginnings. He was fired in 1999 from his position as head of the Arizona Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Division. So a woman could avoid a mandatory one-year diver's license suspension, Pearce and two other men were reportedly involved in changing her driving record, which included two convictions in 10 months of driving under the influence.
Pearce is known for a mean streak a mile wide. In a divorce filing (the pair have since reconciled), his wife said he has "a violent temper, and has from time to time hit and shoved" her. She said Pearce once "grabbed [her] by the throat and threw her down." Last year, when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, facing a budget crisis, refused to appropriate monies for people needing organ transplants, Pearce told ABC News, "Most of those will die anyway."
This past January, following the mass shooting in Tucson in which Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was severely wounded and six others were killed, the Arizona House adjourned for two days of mourning. But the Senate, at Pearce's direction, stayed open for business. "We have a constitutional obligation to wrap up business in 100 days," Pearce told The Arizona Republic.
In 2006, Pearce made news by forwarding to his friends an article written by the neo-Nazi National Alliance that contained virulently racist and anti-Semitic material. After the E-mail became public, Pearce denounced what he had sent but said that its first few paragraphs on media bias had appealed to him. That's not Pearce's only apparent dalliance with neo-Nazism. Pearce has supported politically and been photographed with his arm around J.T. Ready, one of Arizona's leading neo-Nazis. Although he has denied knowing Ready's views until after he was widely criticized for this association, an Arizona official of the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-racist Jewish group, said he warned Pearce of Ready's neo-Nazi views and membership in the National Socialist Movement in a private conversation long before. The Phoenix New Times reported that Pearce even ordained Ready as an elder in the Mormon Church, an action typically reserved for family members.
But with Pearce, it always seems to come back to immigrants. He has falsely claimed that "illegal aliens kill more people on an annual basis than we probably lost in the Iraq war to date." Last year, Pearce pushed through Arizona's anti-immigrant S.B. 1070 law, which he co-wrote with Kris Kobach of the hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform. The most punishing state level anti-immigrant law in memory, the law made the failure of non-citizens to carry immigration documents a crime and obligated police to check the immigration status of those people they come into lawful contact with if there is "reasonable suspicion" that they are undocumented. Pearce also helped lead the charge to pass what amounted to an ethnic studies ban in public schools, claiming that teaching Indian or Mexican history is anti-Anglo. In his own proposed amendments to the law, which bans any classes that "promote resentment toward a race or class of people," Pearce sought to outlaw any courses that "overtly encourage dissent" or "denigrate American values and the teachings of Western civilization." He also singled out a book used in many ethnic studies programs, the winner of the Gustavus Myers Award for Outstanding Book on Race Relations in North America, and said it amounted to "sedition."
Pearce also has a serious beef with the federal government, partly due to the fact that S.B. 1070 is caught up in the federal courts. Pearce claims President Obama is waging a "jihad" against Arizona by challenging the law's constitutionality in court. Obama is often Pearce's target. "Obama may not be visiting Arizona because we require papers," he joked last year. Then, this January, Pearce proposed a law that would allow his state to refuse to obey any federal law or regulation it cared to — an obviously unconstitutional proposal, but one he was glad to make anyway.
Later that month, a recall effort against Pearce was launched that was still pending at press time. Pearce's birthright citizenship bill failed in one Senate committee in early February, but he vowed to find another committee to pass the bill.
MICHAEL PITTS, 55
South Carolina House of Representatives
Like many on the radical right, Mike Pitts is so obsessed with gold that he's known as a "goldbug." Last year, Pitts pushed a bill that would have banned the use of anything other than gold and silver as payment for debt in South Carolina. Pitts justified the bill by drawing a parallel with the Weimar Republic in pre-World War II Germany and the Russian Revolution. "The Germans felt their system wouldn't collapse, but it took a wheelbarrow of money to buy a loaf of bread in the 1930s," he told CBS News last year. "The Soviet Union didn't think their system would collapse, but it did. Ours is capable of collapsing also."
Pitts' fight for gold has endeared him to neo-Confederates in his state. The Southern National Congress, a group that believes the South has been an occupied nation since the end of what it calls "the War Between the States," held an economic summit in early February "to educate both legislators and Patriots" on Pitts' "sound money efforts." "A special thanks for the courageous efforts of … Representative Mike Pitts for championing Sound Money in South Carolina," reads their website.
Pitts introduced a harsher version of Arizona's S.B. 1070 law this January in the South Carolina House, where it is being examined by the Judiciary Committee. If enacted, the law would require employers to verify immigration status of all employees. Most outrageously — because it directly contradicts prior Supreme Court decisions — Pitts' bill would deny public education to undocumented children. The bill would also make it a felony trespass crime for anyone not legally in the U.S. to set foot in the state of South Carolina, even anyone whose tourist or business visa had lapsed by a day. That crime would be punishable by a minimum of three years incarceration or a $10,000 dollar fine. The proposed law could subject all of that person's property to seizure by the state.
The list of what Pitts is against is even longer than what's been described and includes same-sex unions, affirmative action, and the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in South Carolina's anti-discrimination laws. Pitts does not support restrictions on the purchase and possession of guns, nor does he support requiring background checks on gun sales at gun shows. And he is now sponsoring a resolution that declares the U.S. Department of Education "an unconstitutional entity totally devoid of any rightful authority."
MATT SHEA, 36
Washington State House of Representatives
R-District 4, Position 2
Spokane Valley, Wash.
Second-term state Rep. Matt Shea, who is the assistant minority floor leader, seems to have never met an antigovernment conspiracy he didn't like. This February, he was interviewed on the radio show of Alex Jones, a conspiracy-monger who believes that the federal government had a hand in the Oklahoma City and 9/11 terrorist attacks. Jones asked Shea if he was concerned about the supposed planned takeover of the country by a "secret army" run by President Obama. "It is very sinister," Shea replied, adding that Obama also had a master plan to confiscate firearms from Americans. Troops might end up shooting people without jobs, Shea said in a video of the interview posted on the website of the Seattle Weekly.
Shea also seconded Jones' conviction — a belief almost universal in the world of antigovernment "Patriot" groups, including armed militias — that the federal government plans to round up Americans and put them into concentration camps supposedly run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "I'm aware of the FEMA camps," said Shea, adding that he was particularly concerned that religious figures would be used to round people up. "This is eerily similar to using pastors to pacify people, as was done in Nazi Germany," he fretted.
Shea told Jones that his supporters in the Spokane area were very concerned about the coming roundup and were making preparations to counter the federal government's plans. They are "voting with their pocketbooks and their feet and going to the sports stores and taking ammunition in boxes as they can. And I think that underscores a concern of a lot of the general public on some of these very socialistic programs that are coming down." Indeed, for Shea, what's "coming down" amounts to full-fledged Marxism. "And I would actually start to use the word 'communism' because it really is what it is," he said.
It doesn't end there. Shea sees concerns about climate change — a phenomenon that nearly all serious scientists agree is occurring — as part of a government plot to impose control over citizens: "It really isn't about the environment. It's not about anything more than control." People, Shea later told Jones' listeners, need "to wake up. ... [T]hey need to let their legislators know that they've had enough. This is looking too much like the precursor to Nazi Germany and communist Russia."
To combat such dastardly plans, Shea this year introduced a whole host of bills aimed at the federal government. One requires "express legislative authorization" for a greenhouse gas program or motor vehicle fuel economy program. Another asserts "the right to constitutional government," whatever that may mean.
Shea has yet to sponsor any anti-immigration legislation — but he is active in the anti-gay movement. He is co-founder of the Washington Family Foundation, which is now part of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. The group's "allies" include the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, both listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center this year as anti-gay hate groups. Shea also is an "allied attorney" at the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which trains lawyers to "battle the radical homosexual legal agenda." ADF has sent out hysterical missives ("Don't let Christianity become a crime") warning that gay rights, particularly in terms of hate crimes protections, will lead to the banning of religion.
RANDY TERRILL, 41
Oklahoma House of Representatives
Randy Terrill, the assistant majority floor leader of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, has made a political career out of drafting harsh anti-immigrant legislation. His latest move was to co-sponsor the successful bill to outlaw the use of Shariah, or Islamic religious law, in Oklahoma courts.
Terrill put his first immigration bill up for consideration in 2006, but it was considered too harsh and rejected. His luck changed the following year when he put forward Oklahoma's H.B. 1804, one of the harshest state level anti-immigrant bills to become law. The law subjects employers to penalties for discrimination if they fire a legal resident, but retain an undocumented worker in a similar position.
Terrill told the Tulsa World that the law also makes it a felony for a spouse or employer to take an undocumented immigrant to work (transporting such a person to church, school or the hospital would not be penalized). Furthermore, a landlord renting to someone they know, or should have known, is undocumented also would become a felony.
An appeals court in early 2010 ruled that Oklahoma cannot enforce certain parts of the law.
Terrill has pushed bills to make English the state's official language and to allow property to be seized from businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers. Terrill's other anti-immigrant measures include one bill to end Spanish-language drivers' tests and another that would add a $5 charge to any overseas money wire transfer. Terrill told The Wall Street Journal: "My idea is to slowly but surely roll down the welcome mat for illegals." Latin Americans, he complained, will not assimilate like previous waves of immigrants.
Terrill works closely with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed as a hate group since 2007. In fact, he describes Michael Hethmon, the chief of FAIR's legal arm, as the "wizard behind the curtain," that is, the man who helped Terrill draw up H.B. 1804. In 2008, Terrill was awarded FAIR's "We the People" award.
Recently, Terrill has run into some apparently serious legal problems. He was charged last December with bribery. The case includes a felony count accusing him of offering State Sen. Debbe Leftwich (who was also charged) a bribe — an $80,000-a-year state job — to withdraw from running for re-election to the senate. Terrill allegedly wanted Leftwich to drop out so that his friend, Rep. Mike Christian (R-Oklahoma City), could have the seat. Witnesses have identified Terrill as the legislator who added language to a reform bill to create the job of transition coordinator at the medical examiner's office, allegedly for Leftwich.
DANNY VERDIN, 46
South Carolina Senate
Danny Verdin, the majority whip of the South Carolina Senate, compares the battle against immigration to what he pictures as the heroic struggle of Southern Confederates against the Yankees. "South Carolina may have been out front leading 150 years ago at Fort Sumter," where the Civil War's first shots were fired, he said at a press conference this January. "We are happy to work collaboratively on this to cure a malady."
In fact, Verdin had the harshest words for the undocumented of any of those who spoke at the press conference, which was held to announce State Legislators for Legal Immigration's (SLLI) efforts to gut the 14th Amendment. "In any malady, something may be considered benign in its beginning," Verdin told those at the National Press Club event. "It's just to be poisoned over time or to be sick over a long period of time or to have a sudden lethal dose of poison or something that brings on a calamity. In this case the malady can be cured. It's not too late."
In addition to immigration, Verdin is obsessed with the Confederacy — in fact, he often tells people that a Yankee bit off his great-great-grandfather's ear in the Battle of Atlanta in 1864. Verdin was the South Carolina chapter head for the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), a group that throughout the last decade has been roiled by leadership challenges from members of hate groups. Verdin's signature crusade, fought with the help of his fellow SCV members, was to keep the Confederate battle flag flying above South Carolina's Statehouse. Raised in 1961 to protest desegregation efforts, it was only removed, after a long, nasty fight, in July 2000.
In 2000, Verdin was one of the main speakers at a huge "Heritage Celebration" held in Columbia, S.C., to defend the flag. He reportedly also helped to organize the rally, with the SCV kicking in $100,000. Verdin shared the podium with several prominent neo-Confederate hate group leaders as well as white supremacist Kirk Lyons (a man who was married at the Idaho headquarters of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations). More that 6,000 people attended, many in period dress. Activists also unfurled on the Statehouse steps what is said to be the largest Confederate battle flag in existence — a huge piece of cloth owned by the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group that has described black people as "a retrograde species of humanity." The main coordinator for the event was Jerry Creech, a longtime local leader for the CCC.
In an interview for a videotape commemorating the event, Verdin said: "The Sons of Confederate Veterans has been moving to the vanguard position of the promotion of our Southern heritage and making sure we are on the front lines of its defense." He added that the SCV, which describes the Civil War as the "Second American Revolution," was there to "see the true history of the South presented to future generations."
Verdin's chummy relations with neo-Confederates has been a campaign issue for him. In the fall of 2000, his opponent accused him of a being a member in the League of the South, a neo-Confederate hate group that believes slavery is "God-ordained" and egalitarianism a "Jacobin heresy." And, in fact, Verdin was a speaker at a pro-battle flag rally held by the league in Montgomery, Ala., in March 2000. But Verdin denied membership in the group, saying the league had erroneously reported him a member and that his name came up frequently on their website because "they appreciated my work on behalf" of the SCV and the battle flag.