With the American economy on unsteady legs, anti-immigration groups promote vigilantism.
In the frightening world of John Vinson's American Immigration Control Foundation (AICF), Americans are "fighting a war" with an "unseen enemy" who is rapidly ravishing the land.
A "raging flood" of Latins, Haitians and other Third Worlders — "the greatest wave of immigration the world has ever witnessed" — threatens America's "generally European" core with "foreign domination."
Already, Miami is a "Third World nightmare." "Illegal aliens" practice "voodoo" and leave stinking "human waste" in the streets. They bring crime, slums, urban sprawl and other troubles. "America is beautiful," says the narrator in one AICF videotape. "Why spoil it?"
John Vinson is not alone in his fears. The American radical right — and even more so, the European — is haunted by a specter: the day when white numerical dominance will end, sometime after 2050 in the United States.
The news last August that California had become the first large state to see its white population dip below 50 percent sent chills up the collective spine of the extreme right.
In the last year, radical groups around the country grew increasingly agitated over immigration. The pages of their publications filled with dire predictions of white racial extinction, a situation variously blamed on "corporate America" and a plot by Mexico.
Some held rallies in places where immigration is changing the local landscape, while others worked alongside more "mainstream" anti-immigrant groups to promote vigilantism.
Many wrote of the perils of foreign "takeovers" by non-whites. And David Duke, the former Klansman, started a group specifically to take advantage of nativist hatred. More and more, the radical right came to fear racial Armageddon at the hands of dark-skinned aliens.
"The brute fact," warned Sam Francis, editor of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens' Citizens Informer, "is that unrestricted immigration has allowed the American Southwest to be invaded by aliens who may well in the near future ... break the American nation apart."
Violence, too, is growing common — both along the border and in places as far away as Long Island and Minnesota. In Pittsburgh last year, a lawyer allegedly went on a rampage against immigrants that left five non-whites dead.
Defeat and 'Race War' in California
For the moment, anti-immigration activists face a dilemma. Since a major anti-immigrant proposition in California was overturned by the courts in 1998, opposition to immigration as a mainstream issue has faded.
As Francis complained angrily in a recent Citizens Informer editorial, "The Republicans in the last few years have almost entirely surrendered on immigration control."
Last fall, the only presidential candidate who ran on an anti-immigration platform — Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party — got just one percent of the vote, not the three-to-five percent many expected. A strong economy has meant few concerns about low-wage American jobs.
But that could change quickly. If, as many expect, the U.S. economy falls into a recession, all bets are off. In past downturns, Americans have passed harsh anti-immigration measures and violence has typically accelerated.
In Europe, recent hard times have seen outbursts of savage anti-immigrant attacks, including the fatal fire-bombings of several hotels full of foreign refugees.
Extremist nationalism is on the rise in the northern and central nations there — and a similar phenomenon could easily hit the United States, given that immigration here already is at the highest levels since the massive wave of the early 1900s.
"I once interviewed a Spanish neo-fascist who talked about how capitalist society was like a diamond, very, very hard, almost impossible to break," says Martin Lee, an expert on the resurgence of fascism in Europe.
"But he said that if you found exactly the right pressure point, it could crack. For the European radical right, immigration has been that point for 30 years."
And what about America? "This is a precise situation which can start a race war," a hopeful "Tripp Henderson," a New Jersey member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, wrote in a posting to an Alliance e-group.
"All it takes is for bodies to show up, and for the Mexicans in L.A. to start reprisals against Whites in California. Many wars have started over a single shot. I seriously urge any lone-wolf to leave a few bodies in the desert to get things warmed up."
Violence and Propaganda
Already, in an increasingly charged atmosphere along the U.S.-Mexican border, there has been violence. In the last year — the same period in which several Arizona ranchers made national news by "arresting" at gunpoint illegal aliens who crossed their lands — three would-be border-crossers have been killed in apparent vigilante violence.
One of them was shot from behind after asking a Texas rancher for water; he was left to bleed to death in the scrub brush. Seven others are confirmed wounded, and the toll will almost certainly go higher.
To the north, in Bloomington, Minn., a Hispanic man was clubbed and critically injured for speaking Spanish at a job site. In Farmingville, N.Y., a pair of tattooed racists were accused of posing as contractors to lure two undocumented Mexican workers to a warehouse where they were beaten severely.
This violence has been accompanied by renewed interest in immigration from two kinds of right-wing groups, some white supremacist and others less clearly so. Increasingly, these two sets of groups are finding common ground.
White supremacist groups almost by definition hate immigrants — at least dark-skinned ones. For groups from the National Alliance to the Klan to racist Skinhead crews, the Third World foreigner has always been an anathema.
But two of these racist groups are today particularly outspoken: the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) and its much smaller, more intellectual cousin, Jared Taylor's New Century Foundation, which publishes American Renaissance magazine.
The 15,000-plus-member CCC, led by Gordon Lee Baum, has taken up immigration issues ever more vigorously in the months since Sam Francis, a fired Washington Times columnist who once chaired Vinson's AICF, took over as editor-in-chief of its Citizens Informer.
At the same time, American Renaissance, a journal dedicated to "proving" racial differences, has published Francis, California State University professor Roger McGrath and other anti-immigration ideologues. More and more, these two periodicals share both writers and politics.
Mexicans as 'Cultural Cancer'
Racist organizations like the CCC and the New Century Foundation have certainly helped beat the drum of anger at non-white immigrants, reaching thousands of people on the hard right with their messages.
But in many ways, it has been in a different milieu — in the circle of ostensibly more "mainstream" anti-immigration groups like AICF — that this movement has grown strong.
Vinson's videotape, "Immigration: Making America Less Beautiful?", is a lurid vision of barbarians at the gate — and a classic example of the harsh anti-immigration propaganda now making the rounds.
To the strains of "America the Beautiful," it opens with Old Glory flapping, the U.S. Capitol, colonial houses and quiet streets. Suddenly, the music changes.
In Mexico, rough soldiers are saluting menacingly as they march by in red berets. Now, back to the Capitol, "America the Beautiful," blond-haired white kids tumbling down a slide. Then, to the border: a scary nightscope shot of Mexican illegals pouring across the line.
In a little while, a weeping woman will describe her son's murder by a "gang of illegals."
Glenn Spencer's Voices of Citizens Together (VCT) almost makes AICF look tame by comparison. A Mexican invasion, Spencer warns in his own videotape, is racing across America "like wildfire." There are drugs in Iowa, gang takeovers in Nevada, and "traitors" in the Democratic Party, the Catholic Church and among the "corporate globalists."
Bringing crime, drugs, squalor and "immigration via the birth canal," Mexicans are a "cultural cancer" from which Western civilization "must be rescued." They are threatening the birthright left by the white colonists who "earned the right to stewardship of the land." And this invasion is no accident.
Working in league with communist Chicano activists and their allies in America, Spencer warns, Mexico is using a little-known but highly effective plan — a scheme already successful in "seizing power" in California — "to defeat America."
The name of the conspiracy is the "Plan de Aztlán."
Plots, Plans and Racist Fantasies
"Some scoff at the idea of a Mexican plan of conquest," says Spencer's video (which also features a scuffle between VCT and antiracist activists). The video then answers with an assortment of sound bites from Latino activists and Mexican officials — including references to "la reconquista" (the reconquest) — that "prove" that there is a Mexican plot to break the Southwestern states away.
A "hostile force on our border," the narrator warns, is engaging in "demographic war" against the United States. "Mexico is moving to capture the American Southwest."
Variations on this Aztlán conspiracy theory are now widespread on the American radical right. Columnists like Francis and Joseph E. Fallon, who has written on the subject for journals including American Renaissance and Mankind Quarterly, a publication specializing in race "science," have helped to publicize variations of the theory.
Even Michael Hill, president of the League of the South, a racist but relatively sober "pro-South" group, warns of plots by forces "overtly hostile to our civilization."
"Already," he says, "radical Latinos have launched a Reconquista of our southern borders, especially from Texas to California."
Older ideas, too, are animating radical nativists today.
In 1973, a Frenchman named Jean Raspail published a book called Le Camp des Saints. It was a racist fantasy novel about the fate of Western civilization when lazy and degenerate Third World hordes invade — a tale of the rape of France and the rest of the white world at the hands of the dark races.
Critics denounced it soon after publication, and it went out of print in French.
But in 1975, Raspail's book appeared for the first time in English as The Camp of the Saints, and within a few years it had been republished by Vinson's AICF and, in 1995, an anti-immigration outfit called The Social Contract Press (TSCP).
It wasn't long before the National Alliance was describing the book as one of the most important "racialist" novels of the century, along with The Turner Diaries, the infamous race war novel written by Alliance leader William Pierce.
Today, The Camp of the Saints is a key text for extremists — the Turner Diaries of the racist anti-immigrant right.
To some, it is a text to be taken literally.
"The Camp of the Saints is coming our way," TSCP Editor Wayne Lutton warned a national Council of Conservative Citizens conference in 1997. "They have declared racial demographic war against us. It's up to us to respond.
"Why are their populations exploding? Because of us. Our people have exported our medical technology. We feed them. Had we left them alone, many of them would be going extinct today. Can you imagine AIDS raging through Africa?"
Leaving the Mainstream
Much of hard-line anti-immigrant movement today goes back to efforts in California to pass Proposition 187, which would have expelled illegal aliens from public schools and ended their access to benefits other than emergency medical treatment.
With the indispensable support of several key groups — in particular, Spencer's VCT and Barbara Coe's California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR) — Prop 187 was approved in 1994 with 60 percent of the vote.
But in 1998, after years of court battles, the proposition was struck down, dealing a body blow to the mainstream anti-immigration movement.
It was later that year that VCT, CCIR and the more mainstream Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) began working with the racist CCC. Coe, Spencer and Rick Oltman, FAIR's western regional representative, all came to Cullman, Ala., to speak at a 1998 anti-immigrant rally hosted by CCC.
The event, held to protest a swelling population of Mexican workers in the region, ended with the arrest of one of the rally's organizers. He was charged with violating a local ordinance regulating outdoor fires by burning a Mexican flag.
Vinson, for his part, began writing regular articles that year on the perils of immigration for the CCC's newspaper. Around the same time, Spencer began selling his videotape in full-page ads in the same paper.
(The CCC's racism, it should be noted, is not subtle. One recent commentary on the Florida CCC chapter's Web site, posted alongside a photo of an asylum-seeker, went like this: "THIS WORTHLESS, DIRT POOR, HAITIAN LEACH [sic] and her 3 BRATS have ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT to be in this COUNTRY... !!!!!!!!!!!!!!")
In July 1999, the CCC organized an immigration panel at its semi-annual conference, held that summer in Washington, D.C. Speaking at the conference, where books with titles like The Aryan Race were offered for sale, were some key new luminaries of the anti-immigrant right: Vinson, Spencer and Lutton.
Also in 1999, Spencer sent copies of his remarkable video to every member of Congress. Hand-delivering the videos was Bettina McCann — the fiancée of the National Alliance's "military coordinator," neo-Nazi Steven Barry.
Picking the Scab
In January 2000, David Duke, having recently abandoned attempts to appear nonracist, launched a new group he called the National Organization for European American Rights (NOFEAR). Explaining his new group's concerns at the National Press Club, Duke said, "If the present immigration rates continue ... the European-American people will basically be lost as an entity."
Within a month, Duke was in Siler City, N.C., to tell about 100 people at an anti-immigration rally that they were losing their way of life to Hispanics who had come to work in local chicken-processing plants. The rally was organized by the National Alliance.
Last May, after national publicity surrounding Arizona rancher Roger Barnett's armed "arrests" of hundreds of illegals crossing his land, many anti-immigration groups came to Sierra Vista, Ariz., to back Barnett and others. Co-sponsoring the meeting were Spencer, Oltman and Coe (who referred to foreigners as "illegal alien savages").
Also attending, supposedly unbeknownst to the organizers, were two representatives of NOFEAR and unrobed members of an Arkansas Klan group. A Klan flyer appeared on cars before the gathering.
In September, Spencer also traveled east to speak to a Long Island, N.Y., outfit called Sachem Quality of Life, a local anti-immigration group. His visit came just weeks after two Mexican day laborers were badly beaten in a warehouse, allegedly by white supremacists.
A few days after Spencer gave a fiery speech, a member of the Sachem group was arrested for threatening a local Hispanic family.
Spencer is active in other ways, as well. He hosts a syndicated radio show, "American Patrol Report," airing in 19 markets. He has interviewed Jared Taylor; former John Birch Society member Ezola Foster, Buchanan's running mate in the 2000 election; Kevin MacDonald, a California State University professor who sees Jews behind U.S. immigration policies; and colleagues Coe and Oltman.
'Blood on the Border'
In October, another anti-immigration delegation traveled to Arizona to lend its support to Roger Barnett, the controversial rancher who reportedly told a British newspaper that "tracking humans ... is the biggest thrill."
This time it was a group known as Ranch Rescue, organized last summer by a Texan named Jack Foote. Foote, a conspiracy-oriented anti-immigration activist, had promised to "put a stop to ... mass criminal trespass." When they arrived, Foote and a few followers spent time helping Barnett fix fences and "patrolling" his ranch.
Foote, who carried a large weapon and binoculars, has made a name for himself as a hard-liner. He reacted furiously, for instance, to an e-mail from a Mexican-American who accused him of racism.
"You and the vast majority of your fellow dog turds are ignorant, uneducated, and desperate for a life in a decent nation because the one you live in is nothing but a pile of dog shit made up of millions of worthless little dog turds like yourself," Foote wrote.
Finally, in December, the antigovernment separatist group known as the Republic of Texas (ROT) decided to "deploy" its "Texas Defense Forces" to part of the Mexican border to help "in controlling illegal border crossings."
ROT leader Daniel Miller said that any illegals who are intercepted in the operation planned for early this year "will be escorted back to the border and ordered to return."
That kind of talk bothers Miguel Escobar Valdéz.
Sitting in a drab, one-story building in Douglas, Ariz., not too far from Roger Barnett's ranch, the Mexican consul is leafing slowly through a lengthy report. Marked "CONFIDENTIAL," Escobar's report carries a title which leaves little to the imagination: "Incidents in Which Armed Private Citizens Threatened and Apprehended Individuals Presumed to be Undocumented Migrants."
One woman, the report says, was apparently fired on three times as she crossed a nearby ranch. Nine migrants say they were stopped by a local who fired half a dozen shots at them.
A group of 13 claims a rancher's wife set a German Shepherd on one of them while her husband held the rest at gunpoint. Armed ranchers forced two cars off a public road and held the 16 migrants in them until the Border Patrol showed up.
In incident after incident — 28 in all, just in this small sector of the border over 17 months — angry white ranchers allegedly used weapons and threats, and sometimes violence, to "arrest" illegal aliens.
"I am very worried about the situation," Escobar said slowly as he spoke of the growing potential of an anti-immigration movement with an increasingly racist and vigilante edge. "We are all afraid of more blood on the border."