As the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week concerning Arizona's controversial immigration law, a racist patriarch of the anti-immigrant movement once again found a mainstream platform for his hate-filled, conspiracy-mongering extremism.
“No better symbol of the deep political and social divide over illegal immigration exists than here on the Mexico-U.S. border, along Glenn Spencer’s rural desert property,” CNN reported. “And no better symbol exists of the contradictions and conundrums from an unresolved government enforcement policy.”
CNN failed to note that perhaps no better example of the racist vitriol at the core of the immigration debate can be found than Spencer. He has venomously called illegal immigration an invasion and accused Mexico of orchestrating a takeover of the Southwest through a fantastic far-right theory known as “la reconquista.”
“Our country is being invaded by Mexico with hostile intentions,” Spencer said in 2001. “When it blows up, they can’t say we didn’t tell them, when the blood starts flowing on the border and in L.A. We’re [talking] about la reconquista.”
Active in anti-immigrant circles – and on the border – since 1992, Spencer is one of the most hard-core anti-immigrant ideologues. He has issued calls for the immediate roundup and deportation of all undocumented workers, and even demanded the banning of all foreign-language TV and radio broadcasts. His American Patrol website, for many years, was little more than a compilation of articles falsely suggesting Latinos were criminals. He has engaged in more than just rhetoric, too. Spencer has held high-profile nativist gatherings on his ranch some 220 miles off the border and hosted Shawna Forde, the Arizona Minuteman leader sitting on death row for her role in the slayings of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father in 2009.
But little was made of those inconvenient facts in the CNN report, published on Wednesday. Instead, Spencer came off as a sober “retired systems engineer and businessman” bravely taking the law into his own hands with high-tech surveillance systems to monitor the border. Gone were the anti-Semitic ravings about the Jews controlling the media as part of a “clever pro-illegal alien propaganda.”
"I have nothing against Mexico or Mexicans,” he told CNN. “But when you import poverty on a massive scale, and you have a population of people who are far below the standard base of income of Americans, you can only expect to run into serious problems."
Serious problems? That’s something Spencer knows a little of, too.
In 2003, thinking he was hearing noises outside his Sierra Vista, Ariz., home – presumably the sounds of “illegal aliens” heading north – Spencer grabbed a gun and started shooting wildly into the dark outside. He managed to hit a neighbor’s garage, among other things, and was charged with four felonies. (The charges were eventually reduced to a single misdemeanor.)
More recently, in February 2011, he was convicted of disorderly conduct, threatening and intimidation, and assault after he threatened to unleash his dogs on a man he took to be a drug smuggler because he was parked on the side of the road and talking on a cell phone near a supposedly pickup spot. The man turned out to be the son of a neighbor.
Of course, this isn’t the first time CNN has coddled the anti-immigrant right. In 2009, after the Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups demanded his removal, the network bounced commentator Lou Dobbs from his high-profile gig, but only after years of baseless propagandizing against immigrants. The most notable example of that? In 2007, Dobbs peddled the false claim that 7,000 new cases of leprosy had appeared in the United States over a previous three-year period, due at least in part to immigrants.
Indeed, Spencer isn’t Dobbs. His actions have been much, much worse.