As the debate intensifies over Arizona’s harsh new law aimed at undocumented immigrants, nativist groups are claiming that opponents of the measure support nothing less than the reconquest of the Southwest by Mexicans.
Though the myth of “la reconquista” — a purported secret Mexican conspiracy to take back part of the United States — has long pervaded the nativist movement, anti-immigrant groups recently have been using it to portray critics of the Arizona law as anti-American. The law, which detractors (including Southern Poverty Law Center lawyers) say would lead to racial profiling, gives police the authority to arrest people suspected of being undocumented if they have some other reason to make contact with them.
Some of the most overheated rhetoric came from Peter Brimelow, the British immigrant who runs the anti-immigrant hate site VDARE.com. In a VDARE.com post last week titled “Help VDARE.COM Resist [Raul] Grijalva’s Reconquista!,” Brimelow vilifies the U.S. representative from Arizona who vowed at a Phoenix rally to “overturn the power structure that created this unjust, racist law.” Brimelow asserts that “Grijalva is not an immigrant but a Mexican colonizer and what he’s against is not the ‘power structure’ — he’s against America.”
Pat Byrne, the executive director of the Patriots Coalition, another nativist group, also took aim at Grijalva. “Grijalva is supported by the same cast of characters who have crawled out of their political sewers to support his irredentist views,” Byrne wrote in an E-mail last weekend to followers. “Irredentist” means advocating the reclamation of territory formerly belonging to one’s country — presumably a reference to Grijalva’s supposed goal of returning part of the Southwest to Mexico. In an April 18 mass E-mail, Patriots Coalition President Al Garza (a former Minuteman leader) called another congressman, U.S. Rep. Luis Guitierrez (D-Ill.), “Mexico’s #1 reconquista agent.”
Not to be outdone, Glenn Spencer, who heads the American Border Patrol hate group, posted a picture of the United States on his website last Friday with a Mexican flag superimposed on the Southwest. “The Mayor of Los Angeles [Antonio Villaraigosa] is a lackey of the Mexican government,” Spencer wrote. “His [sic] has declared war on U.S. sovereignty.”
Jim Gilchrist, a founding father of the Minuteman movement and the leader of the Minuteman Project, also weighed in last week by attacking not just public figures but all undocumented immigrants. The headline on his website proclaimed, “Minuteman Project says: Illegal Aliens Trying to Strong Arm Arizona.” He continued: “The illegal aliens are proving our point. The Minutemen have for a long time held the line that illegal aliens haven’t come here to work but to colonize.”
Minuteman Project Executive Director Stephen Eichler also heads TeaParty.org — part of the libertarian-tinged grassroots protest movement — so perhaps his group’s overwrought defense of Arizona is no surprise. An E-mail to supporters asked: “Are we to guarantee domestic tranquility for the rest of the world while our own Citizens hide in their homes for fear of an invading army of trespassers?”