Although it was called a “national security convention,” the three-day event hosted by a Denver-area American Legion post last week was concerned about one thing: illegal immigration.
American Legion Post 1111 in Bloomfield, Colo., joined with two nativist groups to sponsor the Aug. 21-23 convention that featured hard-line anti-immigration rabble-rousers Glenn Spencer and Frosty Wooldridge. Although the convention involved an individual legion post, the national legion this spring launched a campaign against illegal immigration that featured a booklet filled with inaccuracies about undocumented immigrants. After Hispanic groups expressed concerns, a message appeared on the legion’s website stating that the booklet was being “updated.”
At last week’s convention, attendees got to watch the premiere of a video called “Border Truth USA,” which took viewers on “a high-definition video tour of the border narrated live by Glenn Spencer,” according to Spencer’s American Patrol website. He also demonstrated the “Virtual Vigilance camera system.”
But Spencer, who leads the vitriolic hate groups American Patrol and American Border Patrol, has done more than show off gadgets designed to catch “illegal aliens.” He’s also spouted anti-Latino comments, proclaiming in a 1996 letter to The Los Angeles Times that “Mexican culture is based on deceit” and “Chicanos and Mexicanos lie as a means of survival.” Local retiree Francis McWilliams, who was introduced as American Border Patrol’s director in September 2002, quickly resigned after concluding that Spencer was “borderline xenophobic.” Spencer also sent every member of Congress a copy of his video, “Bonds of our Nation,” which promotes the myth that the Mexican government and Mexican-Americans are plotting to take over the American Southwest and create the nation of Aztlan. Betina McCann, then the fiancée of neo-Nazi Steven Barry, hand-delivered the videos. In 2003, Spencer was charged with four felonies after repeatedly firing a .357 rifle into the night and hitting, among other things, a neighbor’s garage. He said he had heard “suspicious noises” in his backyard. After pleading to a single misdemeanor count of endangerment, he was fined $2,500 and sentenced to a year’s probation.
Although Spencer toned down the racist rhetoric after moving from California to Cochise County, Ariz., in 2002, he recently posted a Washington Times story about whites losing their hold on the majority amid rising Hispanic immigration, along with a cartoon showing Uncle Sam with the gun of “liberalism” in his mouth as “Mexico” pulls the trigger. Above the article and cartoon is Spencer's heading: “White America Commits Suicide: The Coming Disunited States of America.”
Listeners at the Colorado American Legion post also were treated to remarks from Frosty Wooldridge, an Army veteran with an eclectic career that included writing a 2004 book titled Immigration’s Unarmed Invasion: Deadly Consequences. In it, he alleges that illegal non-European immigrants are bringing female genital mutilation to America. “What if your daughter married a man who insisted your granddaughter undergo this operation?” he asked. He also cautions that people going to Wal-Mart and the movies are “breathing air that may be carrying hepatitis.” (Never mind that hepatitis isn’t transmitted through the air.) Hepatitis, along with head lice and tuberculosis, are showing up in classrooms because of what Wooldridge calls immigrants’ “disease jihad.” In case that’s not enough, Wooldridge adds that Mexicans “do not wash their hands after using bathroom facilities.”
Also scheduled to speak at the Legion post last week was Peter Wagner, author of The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration. The book, available online, portrays undocumented immigrants as rapists, murderers, drunk drivers and disease-carriers. Citing the far-right WorldNetDaily website, it asserts that during a recent three-year period the United States saw “9,000 cases [of leprosy] and most were illegal aliens.” In fact, according to the federal government’s National Hansen’s [leprosy] Disease Program, there were 398 cases of leprosy combined in 2002, 2003 and 2004. The government has no idea how many of those may have occurred in immigrants, legal or otherwise.
The American Legion teamed up with the Federal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Coalition Inc. (FIRE) and Riders Against Illegal Aliens to host the conference. FIRE, whose projects include “Operation Body Count: Reporting the Americans Killed by Illegal Aliens in the Largest Invasion in History,” states on its website that undocumented immigrants kill 9,000 American a year, or 63,000 since Sept. 11. According to FBI statistics, if FIRE’s figures were correct, undocumented immigrants would be responsible for more than half the homicides that take place each year in the United States (there were 15,854 murders in America in 2006, the latest year for which figures are available), even though they comprise roughly 4% of the population.
Legionnaire Greg Williams, who is Colorado director of Riders Against Illegal Aliens and served as a master of ceremonies at last week’s convention, asserted that Spencer was a fine speaker for the convention. “He’s honest and open,” he told Hatewatch when reached at American Legion Post 1111. “He’s not a racist. He’s an American that’s for a sovereign country.” Queried further, Williams asked a reporter to hold on for a moment. When the reporter hung up more than 15 minutes later, Williams still hadn’t returned to the phone.