Around the country, an anti-immigration movement is spreading like wildfire. An array of activists is fanning the flames.
One of them says he'd like to bring nuclear weapons to the border. Another vows to stop the alleged Mexican invasion of Idaho. Several have links to white supremacist hate groups; others are given to dire warnings of horrible diseases, "barbaric" practices, and secret Latino conspiracies to "reconquer" the American Southwest. These are the nativists -- the new crop of activists who are driving the movement that exploded last spring with the Minuteman Project in Arizona, a month-long effort by armed civilians to seal the border with Mexico. Along with a whole array of media enablers (see Broken Record and Nativism On Air), they have barged into the nation's consciousness with remarkable success. Some of them, like Minuteman co-founder Jim Gilchrist, have made attempts to win high political office. Others have contented themselves with trying to build a mass movement. Not all those who have joined the movement are extremists -- many are legitimately concerned about the ability of the nation to absorb large numbers of immigrants, particularly the undocumented. But one thing seems clear: A dangerous mix of nativist intolerance, armed and untrained civilians, and wild-eyed conspiracy theories could easily explode into violence.
LAS CRUCES, N.M.
Clifford Alford is a man of many talents (so many, in fact, that his résumé gives him the unusual composite title of "Dr. Sir Chief"), and one of them, he says, is his expertise on the occult. Long before he announced himself as leader of a group he calls New Mexico Border Watch, Alford conducted law enforcement training on Satanism that included advice on how to confront suspected occultists.
In a pamphlet, he warned police officers that even children and senior citizens can attack without warning when under Satan's influence. Therefore, he suggested, when approaching occult criminal suspects, "always have your holster strap or flap undone and your hand around the grip with your thumb over the hammer."
That's not the only surprising thing Alford has done. Even after he became active in the anti-immigration movement last spring, he retained his membership in the American Civil Liberties Union -- despite the fact that the ACLU was on record as being vigorously opposed to the Minutemen and similar citizens patrol groups. Then Alford ran last June for the board of directors of the ACLU's chapter in his home town of Las Cruces, N.M., and won -- a development that caused national ACLU officials embarrassed by the situation to suspend the entire chapter.
Now, Alford and his followers are promising that they are in it for the long haul. They were patrolling on the border well before the Minutemen and their leader Chris Simcox arrived there in October for patrols of their own. And they say they'll be there long after Simcox's crew is forgotten, patrolling a 70-mile stretch between Columbus and Sunland Park. In fact, Alford has harsh words for Simcox, who Alford points out "is not almighty God and ... not Grand Prior of the Knights Templar." Alford should know; he is himself a Templar knight.
And Dr. Sir Chief Alford says he's a few other things, too: a Cherokee shaman, ex-felon (no further details offered), Wiccan sorcerer, CIA operative and Reiki master. When he's not busy patrolling the border, Alford teaches classes on personal magnetism, Cherokee knuckle reading and forming your own coven.
Erin Anderson says she's telling it like it is. Middle Eastern terrorists, she says, routinely attend special schools in Latin America where they learn to speak Spanish and act like Latino immigrants in preparation for sneaking into the United States. Illegal aliens have brought a leprosy epidemic to an area near Boston. Miami, Houston and Los Angeles are no longer safe because the undocumented donate blood that has been tainted with a deadly disease from south of the border. Mexican pedophiles, terrified by the brutality of their own country's law enforcement officials, are flooding into this country in huge numbers. In all of this, Anderson assures her frightened audiences, the Mexican government is implicated "up to their eyeballs."
A favorite prop -- she seems to bring it to many of her speaking engagements -- is a replica of a Muslim prayer rug. While it's not the real thing, she concedes, it's just like one found near her family's ranch in Arizona -- proof positive, apparently, that Muslim terrorists are using the Southern border to infiltrate America. Typically, this scenario is outlined along with images of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, which she portrays as one more result of illegal immigration.
But there are some things even Erin Anderson won't speak of in her speeches, which have ranged from Arizona to Alabama in the last year. In Washington, D.C., earlier this year, Anderson recited the tale of a young girl and her grandmother who were peacefully fixing a fence near the border when a human smuggler, or coyote, approached them. The man, Anderson said, enumerated a whole series of vile acts he intended to perform on the girl -- acts so awful that Anderson demurely declined to detail them. No problem. The audience, its imagination appropriately fired, gasped in horror.
NEW IPSWICH, N.H.
In early 2004, Garrett Chamberlain -- police chief of 99 percent-white Ipswich, N.H. -- told the local paper that his chief concern was "criminal mischief and behavioral problems" caused by congregating teenagers. But a year later, Chief Chamberlain had a whole new set of priorities that came to national attention when he charged three illegal immigrants with trespassing -- into the United States, that is.
Chamberlain says his concerns began earlier when he stopped a van full of undocumented Ecuadorean immigrants but reluctantly agreed to release them when he realized they had committed no state crime and immigration authorities declined to come to Ipswich to seize and deport them. The incident angered the chief, and he went to consult a local prosecutor about what could be done. Then, when the next opportunity presented itself in early 2005 -- police found three illegal aliens who had pulled off the road to make a cell phone call -- Chamberlain had them arrested under the state's trespassing statute, which makes it a crime if a person, "knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so ... enters or remains in any place."
Many found the charge ridiculous, including New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark McKenzie, who called it "an embarrassment." A judge quickly agreed, ruling, as many have before him, that only the federal government can enforce immigration laws (entering the country illegally is a federal misdemeanor), and throwing out the charges against the three men. But others saw the matter quite differently. Chamberlain was repeatedly interviewed by anti-immigration radio hosts. He received more than 2,000 supportive cards and E-mails. He was given a hero's welcome at a major anti-immigration summit held in Las Vegas over the Memorial Day weekend, and urged to run for office.
Chamberlain isn't quitting. This September, speaking to a crowd in Concord, N.H., on the same bill as Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrist and Congressman Tom Tancredo, he said he's "not done trying."
Jim Chase is a hard-liner even in the hard-line vigilante crowd. Where other anti-immigration activists try to put on an appealing face to the world -- renouncing the use of large weapons, avoiding direct contact with illegal border-crossers, taking care not to sound too extreme in press interviews -- Chase doesn't bother.
When he launched the California Minutemen (recently renamed California Border Watch), Chase put out a call on the Internet for "all those who do not want their family murdered by Al Qaeda, illegal migrants, colonizing illegal aliens, illegal alien felons, alien barbarians, Ninja-dressed drug smugglers," along with those who opposed "cowardly Aztlan punks and Che Guevara pink pantied wimps lower than whale dung who should be fed to the chupacabra [a mythical Mexican monster]." Making ready to patrol the border, he asked his volunteers to bring "baseball bats, stun guns and machetes" and said they could carry assault rifles and shotguns.
Chase and his followers have concentrated on an area around Campo, Calif., where he drives a jacked-up SUV with monster tires that he calls "Godzilla" -- a camouflage-painted vehicle complete with a welded-on lookout perch on top where rifle-wielding Minutemen scan the scenery as Chase drives along the border.
Chase is a Vietnam veteran who worked for the U.S. Postal Service until 1997, when he retired after suffering what he described as a "post-traumatic stress breakdown." He got involved in the anti-immigration movement after "an illegal alien gang banger killed an Oceanside police officer right in front of my grandson's day care."
Chase has broken with Minuteman founders Chris Simcox and Jim Gilchrist, who he worked with at one point but now accuses of secretly allowing rifle-bearing patrols but lying about it to the press. He said he led secret "ambushes" at night to catch border-crossers, then handed those caught to the "official volunteers," who took credit for the apprehensions.
"If we run into any Mexican army or Mexican federales, we're going to belly into 'em, and we're going to do 'em," Chase told a reporter recently. "Simcox's people may not be willing to cause an international incident, but my group will do the dirty." Even that statement didn't fully cover what Chase was willing to do. "If it were legal," he said, "I'd let people bring nuclear weapons out there."
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIF.
Barbara Coe boiled over one day standing in the lobby of an Orange County, Calif., social services office. Looking around her, she told a Los Angeles Times reporter, she was reminded of the United Nations. Then she noticed the windows for Spanish and Vietnamese speakers were open, but the English window was not.
"I went ballistic," she said. She's been that way ever since.
In 1994, Coe organized a group called the California Coalition for Immigration Reform to help write and push through California's Proposition 187, which was meant to cut off undocumented immigrants from social services like public schools and hospitals. The initiative passed but was eventually found to be unconstitutional. Later, in 1999, she helped organize an effort to recall anti-187 Gov. Gray Davis, who she derided as a communist and referred to as "Gov. Gray 'Red' Davis."
Vitriolic, conspiracy-minded and just plain mean, Coe routinely refers to Mexicans as "savages." She claims to have exposed a secret Mexican plan (the "Plan de Aztlan") to reconquer the American Southwest. Last May, at a "Unite to Fight" anti-immigration summit in Las Vegas, she launched the kind of defamatory rant for which she is infamous. "We are suffering robbery, rape and murder of law-abiding citizens at the hands of illegal barbarians," she warned her cowering audience, "who are cutting off heads and appendages of blind, white, disabled gringos."
More recently, she attacked the new Hispanic mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, accusing him of seeking to return Southern California to Mexico.
But the most curious thing about the former police clerk -- whose friends have said she told them she was forced from her job in 1994, after using a city-owned camera to photograph people she thought were illegal aliens -- may be her offhand comments to the Denver Post this November. In a profile of her close friend, U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), the paper said Coe described speaking to and belonging to the Council of Conservative Citizens. That group, which has called blacks "a retrograde species of humanity," has long been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group -- as has Coe's own California Coalition for Immigration Reform.
SAN DIEGO, CALIF.
Speaking at major anti-immigration events like those in Chicago and Las Vegas in 2005, the late Madeleine Cosman rattled off a list of scary illnesses, each allegedly brought to this country by what she called "deadly time bombs" -- illegal aliens. She talked about how the undocumented spit out "anchor babies," children who automatically are U.S. citizens because they are born here and who can then form the basis of an appeal for legalization of their parents under family unification policies. And she claimed that these parents prefer sick babies to healthy ones, presumably because they're able to get public benefits for which they'd otherwise be ineligible.
Though she talked endlessly about disease, Cosman, who died in early 2006, was not a doctor. She was a wealthy lawyer who advised physicians on how to sell their medical practices; a former Renaissance Fair queen; a devotée of hard-line libertarian Ayn Rand; and a member of the far-right Jews for the Preservation of Firearms. She was also a contributor to the conspiracy-minded "News With Views" website, where she offered up fare like "Violent Sexual Predators Who Are Illegal Aliens" and "Bird Flu and Illegal Aliens," wherein she theorized that a Muslim terrorist could "create his own weapon of mass destruction" by smuggling an infected person across the border.
Cosman said she'd written more than a dozen books. Her most successful, she said, was Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony, a 1976 volume that she claimed was "nominated" for both a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award (these claims are repeated on the book's back cover). But Pulitzer officials say that there were no official "nominees" for the prize until 1980; before then, there were only "submissions" from writers or publishers. In the case of the National Book Award, prize publicist Camille McDuffie sent the Report complete lists of all past nominees and winners of the award; neither Cosman's name nor that of her book is anywhere on those lists. Immigrant-bashing, it appears, was not the only field in which Madeleine Cosman was prone to exaggeration.
Russ "Sovereign" Dove is a handyman, a "biblical constitutionalist" and a former member of the Third Continental Congress, a major militia umbrella group of the late 1990s. He is also a man who is desperately concerned that illegal immigrants are sneaking into this country and skewing the American electoral process.
So Dove made up some official-looking T-shirts, emblazoned with "U.S. Constitution Enforcement" and the image of a badge. Standing in front of polling places in the September 2004 Arizona primaries, he videotaped and photographed anyone who showed up to vote who he suspected might not be a citizen. Russ Dove was determined to single-handedly protect the polls from the ineligible.
Voting ineligibility is something Dove likely has some personal knowledge about. A convicted felon, Dove may not vote legally in 14 different states.
Dove apparently also has a short fuse. He told a Chicago Tribune reporter that he would have liked to join in the citizen border patrols run last April as part of the Minuteman Project in Arizona. But he said he was too "fed up" and worried that if a confrontation with immigrants developed, "I'm afraid I'd have to respond in kind."
Still, Dove has celebrated the Minutemen, filming interviews with many participants and authoring frequent reports on immigration issues on his Web site and "Truth in Action News" radio show. The site carries video footage of Dove and company taunting counter-protesters at a July anti-immigration rally in Phoenix.
Dove also appears in a film not of his own making, "Undocumented: The Other Side of the Minuteman Project." The documentary was shot by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has opposed the Minutemen. In it, Dove proclaims that according to "state law, federal law and biblical law, everybody coming across the border is a thief and a liar."
Thievery is something Dove apparently has had some experience in. His 1980 felony conviction, it turns out, is for attempted grand theft in California. Two 1979 burglary charges were dismissed.
Patrick Haab's rise to prominence in the anti-immigration movement was almost as meteoric as his subsequent fall from grace. Anointed a hero, he was dropped rapidly after embarrassing revelations emerged about his past.
Last April 10, Haab came across seven men he suspected were illegal immigrants at a highway rest stop in Arizona and held them at gunpoint until sheriff's deputies responded to his 911 cell phone call. Much to his surprise, he was arrested and charged with seven counts of aggravated assault -- a move that generated outrage and consternation among anti-immigration zealots. It didn't hurt his rising reputation in that crowd when Haab, an Army sergeant, told reporters he'd just come back from a tour in Iraq, and went on to complain that America was turning into "Americo."
Haab was immediately embraced by the anti-immigration movement. He appeared on radio talk shows repeatedly. A fan posted his $10,000 bond, and a defense fund was set up. When the local district attorney, Andrew Thomas, dropped all charges against him, Haab became a superhero. Anti-immigration pundit Michelle Malkin described Thomas' highly controversial decision as "another victory for law-abiding, pro-enforcement forces." Haab even went so far as to demand $1 million to compensate him for four nights in jail.
Then it all went south. Two weeks after his release, the Arizona Republic broke a remarkable story. Haab had never been in Iraq. He had been in Kuwait, however, where he told officials during an Arabic cultural awareness class that he had a desire to "kill all the camel jockeys," including a Muslim from his own unit. He had also threatened to kill himself, officials said. Haab was pulled from active duty and returned to Fort Bragg, N.C., for mental health evaluation. While there, he bought a $12,000 sniper rifle, causing military officials to alert other authorities. Even after five months of therapy, a military official said he didn't think Haab was "ready to return to duty or become a functioning part of society."
And with that revelation, Patrick Haab effectively disappeared.
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.
Last April's Minuteman Project -- a paramilitary vigilante effort to seal off the Arizona border -- may not have accomplished much in terms of stopping illegal immigration. But it was a remarkable media success, sparking upbeat coverage and the creation of some 40 similar groups in ensuing months. It soon became apparent the project had metastasized from the one-man operation started by Chris Simcox as the Tombstone Militia into a movement that was sweeping the nation.
With that -- and with the $50 application fees that thousands of people began sending in to join his Minuteman Civil Defense Corps -- Simcox knew it was time to professionalize. Flush with cash, Simcox hired the exceedingly professional Connie Hair as the Minutemen's official media spokesman.
It was Hair who got Simcox onto Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" in August, banking on her long friendship with Sean Hannity. It paid off -- Hannity did several broadcasts direct from the Texas border, where he strolled along the Rio Grande side by side with Simcox and tossed stones into Mexico. She also managed to regularly serve up worrying sound bites like this one: "If you're from the Middle East, it only makes sense you might be in a Middle Eastern terror cell."
Connie Hair is no amateur. Although she started out as a B movie actress -- sharing the screen with stars like Pia Zadora in 1982's "Fake-Out" and Charles Bronson in 1987's "Death Wish 4: The Crackdown" -- she soon entered the world of ultraconservative politics. She was a spokesman for Free Republic, a Clinton-bashing Web site, in the 1990s. She worked as a paid consultant and spokesman for archconservative Republican Alan Keyes in his 2000 bid for president and his 2004 campaign for senator from Illinois. She has worked for Judicial Watch, a litigious organization heavily funded by the hard-right Scaife Foundation that is currently suing the town of Herndon, Va., for funding a hiring hall for day laborers. Currently, she also is a paid consultant for the Washington-based Coalition for a Fair Judiciary ("the only grass-roots organization that stands in the gap between the judicial nominees and the vicious onslaught of the left") and a part-time director of communications for U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, Republican of Arizona. The National Journal recently ranked the congressman as the fifth most conservative in the House of Representatives.
D.A. King was going to show the world just how angry Americans are about illegal immigration. Along with his followers, he showed up at the state Capitol in Atlanta last October to protest. Trouble was, there were only a few dozen of them in all.
King wasn't fazed. As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quickly discovered, the long-time anti-immigration zealot found a solution immediately -- just pay $10 each to 14 homeless people from the neighborhood, hand them signs, and set them loose.
"I consider it very good use of the day labor laws," an unrepentant King boasted to the newspaper. "Yes, I paid them," he added to Creative Loafing, an alternative newspaper. "And I'm going to pay them again."
The tactic, while unusual, wasn't entirely unprecedented. Anti-immigration leaders are eager to show that theirs is a mass movement. So when a couple hundred people showed up to join the Minuteman Project in Arizona last spring -- an armed citizens' effort to seal the border -- Minuteman leaders claimed at least 1,300.
With the disposition of a drill sergeant, nobody has done more to stoke the flames of the anti-immigration movement in Georgia than King. Standing 6-foot, 2-inches tall, the shaven-headed ex-Marine from Marietta regularly contributes dispatches from what he calls "Georgiafornia" to the anti-immigration Web hate site, VDARE, named for the first white child born in America, Virginia Dare. "For me," King wrote in one of his articles, "while standing a few feet away from group after group, the impulse to reach out and personally deport these Third World invaders was nearly uncontrollable." On another occasion, after a local newspaper did a story on undocumented workers, he described how he'd brought a copy of the article to immigration authorities to demand that they deport those who were featured.
King's been interested in illegal immigration since the late 1990s, when he worked with the Georgia Coalition for Immigration Reduction. In 2003, he retired from his insurance agency to form his own groups: his "coalition of immigration crime fighters," the American Resistance Foundation; and the Dustin Inman Society, a group focused on the Southeast and named after a 16-year-old boy who King says was killed in an automobile accident that involved an illegal immigrant.
FORT SMITH, ARK.
Within two days of his selection to head the new anti-immigration group Protect Arkansas Now, Joe McCutchen was exposed by the Southern Poverty Law Center for his connections to racist groups. McCutchen had spoken to the hate group Council of Conservative Citizens about immigration, as Arkansas newspapers promptly reported. He had written another racist group, American Renaissance, to ask that its members support an anti-immigration outfit in Michigan. And the Center also reported that McCutchen had written a series of letters to his local paper in which he alleged that Jews controlled the central government, banking, media, the entertainment industry and the entire world monetary system.
Politicians who'd been close to McCutchen and his group drew back. The governor, a Republican and a Baptist minister, angrily denounced the bill to deny social services to illegal aliens that McCutchen was pushing.
But McCutchen was nonplussed.
Indeed, his reaction to the charge of anti-Semitism was simple: He wasn't engaging in racist stereotyping. He liked Jews. All he had been doing, McCutchen said, was "speak[ing] highly of the business ability of many Jewish persons."
And that, apparently, was that. Despite a January Associated Press story describing the entire affair, McCutchen seemed to regain his stature as a press interviewee, particularly in April, when he joined the Minuteman Project vigilante effort in Arizona. He appeared in an April 1 story on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight," an April 12 story in the Ventura County (Calif.) Star, an April 14 article from MSNBC, and an April 22 Los Angeles Times report. None of these reports made any mention of McCutchen's background. However, the silliest account may have come on May 2 from The Christian Science Monitor, which sympathetically described McCutchen's professed "compassion" for illegal border-crossers.
SANTA ANA, CALIF.
Lupe Moreno, an evangelical Christian who believes that LGBT people have been taken over by evil spirits and that body-piercing can turn people gay, has been fighting illegal immigration for nearly 12 years. Today, as president of Latino Americans for Immigration Reform, she advocates a military presence on the border and warns that any groups that don't agree "should be dealt with severely as entities promoting crime, terrorism, and instability against this nation and its citizens."
For Moreno, the battle is personal indeed. To hear her tell it to reporters and in speaking engagements nationwide, she has experienced nothing but misery at the hands of the undocumented. As a child, her smuggler dad brought a string of illegals into their home who raped and beat her regularly. An illegal shot her nephew, and another one killed a boy she knew. Still another illegal alien urinated on her lawn and made an obscene gesture at her when she protested. Even her husband, who she married at 16 and bore five children to, turned out poorly. The reason? Well, he, too, was a one-time illegal alien, and when Lupe Moreno went whole hog into the anti-immigration movement -- meeting up with Mexican-basher Barbara Coe in what she calls a "life-changing experience" -- they split. Her ex, Marcial Moreno, told a reporter that Lupe had turned into a racist under Coe's influence.
Moreno has been involved in the anti-immigration movement since 1994, when Californians passed Proposition 187, a measure that cut undocumented immigrants off from many benefits but was ultimately ruled unconstitutional. But she only met Coe some years later, and the pair has formed something of a mutual admiration society ever since. Moreno compares Coe, who recently admitted membership in a racist hate group, to Thomas Jefferson, John Wayne and Charlton Heston. Coe, for her part, says she wishes for "10 more" of Moreno -- no surprise, given the political utility of having prominent Hispanics in the anti-immigration movement.
Moreno is known for her extravagant statements. Not long ago, she compared the plight of Americans facing the illegal alien onslaught to that of the Jews facing Nazi death camps -- and worried that Americans were reacting to the threat in the same "passive" way that the Jews allegedly did. "These people start coming into our communities, they live among us, they steal our children's educations and our children's jobs and our jobs," Moreno told The (Riverside, Calif.,) Press-Enterprise last April. "Deport them," she demanded. "Each and every one of them."
COCHISE COUNTY, ARIZ.
If there were a Paul Revere of the anti-immigration movement, it would be Glenn Spencer, a vitriolic Mexican-basher who may have done more than anyone to spread the myth of a secret Mexican conspiracy to reconquer the Southwest.
The so-called reconquista, an alleged plot to turn several American states into a Mexican state or some kind of puppet government controlled by Mexico, has been a top concern for Spencer for years. Back in 1999, he put it like this: "The consul general says Mexico is reconquering California. A Mexican intellectual suggests that anyone who doesn't like Mexicans should leave California. What else do you need to hear? RECONQUISTA IS REAL... . EVERY ILLEGAL ALIEN IN OUR NATION MUST BE DEPORTED IMMEDIATELY. ... IF WE CAN BOMB THE TV STATION IN BELGRADE [in the former Yugoslavia] WE CAN SHUT DOWN [U.S. Spanish-language stations] TELEMUNDO AND UNIVISION."
Spencer got involved in the anti-immigration movement in 1992, when he formed Voice of Citizens Together, also known as American Patrol, in California. In 2002, saying the battle was lost in that state, he moved to the "front lines" of the Arizona border, where he formed American Border Patrol. He was one of the first to call for border citizens' patrols and pioneered the use of surveillance technology.
He also was one of the first well-known anti-immigration activists to more or less openly court white supremacists and anti-Semites. He has attended conferences of American Renaissance magazine, which specializes in racist theories about blacks and others. He interviewed the magazine's editor, Jared Taylor, on his syndicated radio show. Another guest was California State Professor Kevin MacDonald, who is the architect of an elaborate anti-Semitic theory dressed up as evolutionary biology.
Just this September, Spencer promoted on his Web site a booklet published by Taylor called The Color of Crime. The booklet is a "relentlessly factual" study that alleges that blacks and Hispanics are far more likely than whites to be criminals. It also falsely alleges people of color commit vastly more hate crimes than others.
Sometimes, Spencer's racial paranoia seems to get the better of him. One night in 2003, thinking he was hearing noises outside his Sierra Vista, Ariz., home, he grabbed a gun and started shooting into the dark. He managed to hit a neighbor's garage, among other things, and was charged with four felonies. But charges like that have a habit of going away in Southeastern Arizona. In Spencer's case, his felony charges were reduced to one misdemeanor. He was fined $2,500 and given a year's probation. His lease was also terminated and he was forced to move away, taking up residence in a trailer in unincorporated Cochise County.
As the face of the anti-immigration movement in Congress, Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo has enraged countless members of his own party. In 2002, presidential advisor Karl Rove, angered at Tancredo's attacks on President Bush's approach to immigration, told him "never to darken the door of the White House again." Last April, after Bush called armed anti-immigration Minutemen patrolling the Arizona border "vigilantes," Tancredo told the Minutemen that Bush should have to write an apology on a blackboard 100 times, then erase the chalk with his tongue. More recently still, Tancredo endorsed three primary challengers to his Republican House colleagues and even, in California, a Democratic candidate.
None of this seems to bother the man who started the hard-line Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus in 1999. In fact, he has gone from what many consider one outrageous action to another. Campaigning for a Senate candidate in Illinois, he warned that illegal immigrants are "coming here to kill you and to kill me and our families." When a Denver newspaper ran a sympathetic article describing the plight of a high school valedictorian whose family was undocumented, Tancredo sought to have the family found and deported. In a discussion with a radio talk show host last July, he suggested that the United States should "take out" Mecca and other Islamic holy sites if the country is hit by a major terrorist attack launched by Muslims.
Because of his outrageous rhetoric and hard-line views, Tancredo is seen in heroic terms in the anti-immigration world. Barbara Coe, who heads one hate group and belongs to another, says Tancredo is a "gold-plated, card-carrying patriot." Angela "Bay" Buchanan, a hard-right activist, thinks he should run for president. Tancredo received a hero's welcome when he keynoted at an anti-immigration conference attended by 400 activists last Memorial Day weekend.
Tancredo often doesn't sound much different than the activists who spread fears about a supposed secret Mexican plot to reconquer the Southwest. "China is trying to export people," he told one anti-immigration group. "It's a policy for them, a way of extending their hegemony. It's a government-sponsored thing."
Joe Turner's been angry about immigration since childhood. Eleven years ago, he stood in his high school cafeteria giving an impassioned speech in favor of Proposition 187, a California ballot initiative denying illegal immigrants access to public school and hospitals that was later found to be unconstitutional. Turner only sounded more radical late this year, when he demanded the city of San Bernardino pass a law to close day laborer centers, seize the cars of those who hire illegal day laborers, fine businesses that hire them, prohibit renting to illegal immigrants, and require that all city business be transacted in English.
In December 2004, Turner started his own anti-immigration group, Save Our State, and the group has swelled to the point where its Web forum now has more than 1,000 members. He's emceed a series of protests by a few dozen members of his group, including two that cost the city of Baldwin more than $40,000, mostly for police. (He calls this his "transference of pain" strategy.) Turner's Baldwin protests were held to demand that the city remove this "seditious" language on a monument: "This land was Mexican once, Indian always, and is and will be again."
An unusual feature of Turner's rallies has been the regularity with which they attract neo-Nazis and racist Skinheads clad in black boots with red laces. Some of what appears in Turner's Web forum doesn't sound much different than propaganda from neo-Nazis. In October, for instance, one poster suggested that Hispanic fertility should be reined in with "crop dusters spraying birth control powder" and concluded, "STOP BREEDING LIKE RODENTS! YOU'RE RUINING MY COUNTRY!"
Turner, who was charged with battery in December after a confrontation with an antiracist protester, does delete posts advocating violence and has even banned a white supremacist or two. But in the same breath, he has publicly complained that he is "sick and tired of multiculturalism" and "white-bashing." And, Turner added, "Just because one believes in white separatism, that does not make them a racist."
Be that as it may, the 28-year-old stay-at-home dad apparently has decided he's found his calling in the anti-immigration movement. "Deep down," Joe Turner told the Ventura County Star last July, "I feel like I've been called to greatness."
After spending parts of October patrolling the border in New Mexico, Mike Vanderboegh and the two or three others who made up his Alabama Minuteman Support Team decided they'd had enough. Despite the presence of an alluring array of military toys -- "night vision devices, global positioning systems, portable seismic intrusion detectors and ham radios" -- the men, all once associated with the militia movement of the 1990s, decided to call it quits. Apparently, their citizens' patrol, aimed at keeping illegals out of America, proved less than thrilling.
As of Nov. 1, the tiny group gave itself another name -- the Alabama Minuteman Surveillance Team -- and the mission of making life miserable for any business that hired undocumented workers. "We hereby put exploitative employers and crooked politicians on notice," Vanderboegh declared after ending the patrols and deciding to return to Alabama to concentrate on the situation there. "We intend to make it toxic for anyone doing public or private business to use illegals. If I were a politician in Alabama right now, I'd start getting REAL careful about who I accepted money from. Because we're fixin' to flip on the light switch."
Vanderboegh denied any suggestion of vigilantism, telling The Birmingham (Ala.) News that all his group sought was enforcement of existing laws. He had similarly shrugged off criticism of the paramilitarism of the militias back when he was associated with groups including the Alabama Constitutional Militia, the Tri-States Militia and the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment, Constitutional Militia. Along with New Mexico Minuteman Bob Wright, Vanderboegh in 1996 was among militia leaders from 19 states who signed a declaration distancing the militia movement from racists and neo-Nazis.
Vanderboegh has consistently portrayed himself as a moderate, first in the militia world and now in the anti-immigration movement. But he hasn't always sounded that way. Back in the mid-1990s, he wrote a document entitled "Strategy and Tactics for a Militia Civil War" in which he discussed the utility of snipers using "violence carefully targeted and clearly defensive: war criminals, secret policemen, rats (Pitcavage take note)." Mark Pitcavage, a historian, was then running a Web group called The Militia Watchdog and doing some work for police agencies. He is currently the fact-finding director of the antiracist Anti-Defamation League.
Not many people are aware that Idaho is under assault by waves of illegal Mexican immigrants. But Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez is.
Vasquez has demanded that the governor of Idaho declare a state of emergency to stem the Mexican "invasion." He wants to "close the borders of Idaho and mobilize the National Guard to secure checkpoints" to rout out illegals. He has "billed" the Mexican government for $2 million to reimburse what he claims his county has spent on services to the undocumented. He has even attacked his fellow Republicans, accusing them of serving illegals better than American citizens.
You might think that would pretty much rule out Vasquez's future on a larger political stage. But he doesn't. In fact, he says he's running for Congress even as he considers a campaign for governor of Idaho. His message? Illegals bring disease and crime, lower wages all round, and threaten American national security.
"The diversity crowd seduces the naive by teaching that the invaders are noble, harmless people, just here to work," Vasquez told an anti-immigration gathering near Chicago in October, "when in fact they are here to commit auto theft, burglary, rape, robbery and murder."
The grandson of Mexican immigrants and a Vietnam War veteran, Vasquez hotly rejects the idea of being "a hyphenated American." Translated, that means he refuses to do interviews in Spanish, even with the Spanish-language media.
Vasquez is a former newspaper columnist who long specialized in arguing that English should be the country's official language. Another favorite target was "liberals," people Vasquez sees as pathetic weaklings. "As you sit in your Subaru Outback with the 'Save Tibet' bumper sticker," he wrote in one sneering column directed at liberals, "sipping your decaf-soy milk-latte, dining on your veggie burger, and whining about the poor al-Qaida being bombed, think about this: Freedom is not free. But don't worry. Your friends and neighbors are paying the price."
The author of hundreds of opinion columns, Frosty Wooldridge believes he knows a thing or two about immigration. It's not a pretty picture he paints.
Cock-fighting, animal sacrifice, Santeria sorcery, staged dog fights -- these are some of the nasty things illegal aliens bring us, Woolridge writes in his 2004 book Immigration's Unarmed Invasion: Deadly Consequences. There's genital mutilation -- clitorectomies -- that come to us courtesy of illegal non-European immigrants ("What if your daughter married a man who insisted your granddaughter undergo this operation?"). If you go to places like Wal-Mart or the movies, he warns, "you're breathing air that may be carrying hepatitis." Tuberculosis, head lice and hepatitis are showing up in our classrooms -- part of what Wooldridge calls immigrants' "disease jihad." Thanks to donations from illegals, blood supplies may be contaminated with a deadly parasite that will destroy your heart.
Not worried yet about the ways of "barbaric" immigrants? Consider the toilet habits of the undocumented. Somali immigrants, Wooldridge warns, "never used a toilet or washed their hands before being plunked down in America." Mexicans "do not wash their hands after using bathroom facilities." Then Wooldridge suggests in his book that readers think about just who it is who prepares their food.
An Army veteran, Wooldridge claims to have written articles for 18 magazines, along with "hundreds" of editorials in major American newspapers. He says he bicycled 100,000 miles through six continents over the course of 25 years. He has taught math and science and has been a tractor-trailer driver, bartender, dance teacher, ski instructor, heavy equipment trainer, cardiac catheterization technician, personal trainer and lifestyle coach. He has appeared on scores of television and radio shows. But what he does not have is any background in immigration.
That hasn't prevented him from offering up his opinions. "I don't want to see my country taken over ... and have them make the Southwest a slime pit Third World country like Mexico," he told a Las Vegas audience in early 2005. Later, in a letter to the editor, he complained about California, "with its nightmare gridlock, schools trashed, hospitals collapsing, drug gangs and overall chaos generated by a Third World mob of illegal aliens." U.S. borders should have been sealed to legal and legal immigration the day after the Sept. 11 attacks, Woolridge added on one Web site. If that doesn't happen soon, he said, "this country will collapse into internal civil conflict in this decade."
The spreading anti-immigration Minuteman movement in America is similar in a number of ways to the militia movement that was so remarkable in the 1990s. Both the militias and the Minutemen -- relatively new groups that have sought to end illegal immigration by running civilian border patrols -- involve private individuals acting in the name of patriotism to fix perceived social problems. Both sprang up out of frustration with the government and the idea that everyday citizens could rectify government's mistakes via paramilitary activism. And both have drawn participants from a broad cross-section of America, from the working class to the wealthy.
So it isn't much of a surprise to find militia members and leaders increasingly joining up. A case in point is Bob Wright, commander of the 1st Brigade New Mexico Militia, who recently began work as leader of the New Mexico branch of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. Patrolling this October near Hachita, N.M., Wright was joined by several militiamen, including Mike Vanderboegh, a former key militia leader from Alabama who now heads up the Minuteman group in that state.
It wasn't a wholly satisfactory effort. Wright's followers were joined by a group of horsemen who called themselves the "Rough Riders." Vanderboegh and a few others from Alabama brought military gadgets to aid in apprehensions. Wright himself says he sunk a considerable amount of his own money into setting up a "command post." But even with all that effort, Wright's group only reported a total of around 20 illegal border-crossers to the Border Patrol in a whole month.
Possibly as a result of his experience in the militia movement, Wright has taken pains to paint his group as a moderate one. He has insisted that his followers adhere to a "no contact" rule during their patrols. As a result, when a volunteer from Colorado was found during the October patrols with two illegal aliens in his car -- it was not clear what they were doing there or what the volunteer intended to do with them -- Wright immediately expelled the man. Wright was perfectly clear about his reasons. "[T]his operation can't afford that kind of stupidity," he said.
APPLE VALLEY, CALIF.
Italian-born gladiator, songwriter, erotic poet and now anti-immigration Minuteman -- it's sometimes hard to know whether Luca Zanna is really a political activist or just a Marvel Comics character set loose in a new homeland. One thing's for sure: Zanna's fellow anti-immigration zealots think he's the toast of the town.
Back in Rome, before he legally emigrated to the United States, Zanna was a gladiator with big dreams. The former surfer spent his days dressed as Spartacus, the insurrectionist Roman slave, hustling tourists for spare change around the Coliseum. In 1997, he told a newspaper he was setting up an escort service to provide female tourists with "their own Italian lovers." Then, in 1998, he headed for the States.
Zanna embraced American capitalism with a vengeance. From his California home, he sold "erotic poems" on one of his many websites, ran a dating service, and offered classes in his own gladiator school. He promoted his skills as a gladiator chef, stirring pasta with a trident on a local cable television show. He even tried to get a reality show in which he would travel the country in a gladiator outfit looking for love in just seven days. Then he discovered immigration.
Last summer, in the wake of the Minuteman vigilante effort to seal the Arizona border, Zanna set up his own Minuteman offshoot -- the High Desert Minutemen. He produced a video that showed himself in the desert near Campo, Calif., giggling as he blasted weird sounds from a boom box toward the Mexican border (part of what he calls "psychological warfare" directed at would-be border crossers). In another shot, he is leaning over a border fence and shouting, "Fuck you, Fox!" at the faraway Vicente Fox, president of Mexico. An anti-Mexican song he wrote plays in the background.
You might think that anti-immigration leaders would be leery of Zanna. But not so. In fact, he was warmly welcomed when he joined the first Minuteman Project in Arizona last April, and again at a "Save Our State" rally in California (he arrived toting two shields and a helmet meant to serve as protection against pro-immigrant protesters). At a major anti-immigration conference in Las Vegas last May, Zanna called Minuteman co-founder Jim Gilchrist to the stage; the two men then knelt and embraced each other as the strains of another Zanna-authored tune, "Minuteman," played in the background. In July, at an anti-immigration event in Phoenix, he finished a boisterous speech by dramatically rolling up his sleeve to reveal an American flag tattoo on his flexed bicep. Everywhere, he was cheered.
Zanna recently released a CD, dedicated to the founders of the Minutemen and featuring his anti-immigration music. It's not meant for everyone, Zanna helpfully warns potential buyers, and most especially not "liberals, communists, American politicians on the payroll of Mexico or other foreign countries, United Nations crooks, antigun freaks, backstabber Frenchies, prochoice Baby Killers, antimilitary hippies, Hollywood chicken wings and illegal alien invaders."