It is no secret that the issue of immigration, mainly surrounding immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America, has spurred a major debate inside the United States. Many racist, anti-immigrant vigilante groups have popped up to try to influence the debate’s trajectory.
The bourgeois media has treated these neo-fascist groups as legitimate voices whose opinions against immigration
The relationship was highlighted in the capitalist media attacks aimed at Columbia University students who, on Oct. 4, caused Minutemen leader Jim Gilchrist to terminate his speech at the school by chanting and taking the stage where he spoke.
Gilchrist, an arch-racist, has characterized undocumented workers as people whose “intentions are to just squat here and plunder whatever social benefits our programs provide them.” He has said that “every time a Mexican flag is planted on American soil, it is a declaration of war.”
Just hours after Gilchrist fled Columbia, right-wing headlines rang out—”At Columbia, Students Attack Minutemen Founder” and “Riot Breaks Out at Minutemen Gathering at Columbia University.” Gilchrist and other Minutemen leaders were featured on national television, whining about the anti-racist students’ “attacks on free speech.” Billionaire New York mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the chorus against the courageous students.
The capitalist media’s defense of racists is not a new phenomenon. Latino immigrants are now being singled out, and Lou Dobbs, formerly a financial reporter, is leading the charge. Dobbs is the main media mouthpiece of the anti-immigrant movement. He uses his nightly CNN show to rally racists to the cause.
The media makeover of the Minutemen and their ilk has been directed from the top—by Wall Street, banks and leading capitalist corporations. These institutions have promoted the Minutemen to project a “grassroots” counterweight to the massive pro-immigrant movement that took to the streets in the millions last spring.
But anti-racist progressives and revolutionaries should know the truth. These groups are neo-fascist formations that have relatively few adherents at this time. They are trying to find a significant base of support within the American petty bourgeoisie and working class, but they have yet to do so. They have been given a certain legitimacy compared to the KKK and Nazis by their regular coverage on CNN, Fox News and even NPR.
The Minuteman Project
The most widely recognized anti-immigrant group is Gilchrist’s Minuteman Project. Since its founding in the fall of 2004 by Gilchrist and Chris Simcox, it has received widespread media coverage and critical political support. California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger praised them as “honorable citizens.”
Gilchrist and Simcox began by sending armed vigilantes to the Arizona border in search of immigrants in 2005. The
Gilchrist still controls the Minutemen, which claims to target companies that employ undocumented workers. But Gilchrist’s group and its offshoots have continued to patrol U.S.-Mexico border areas and frequently hold right-wing, hate demonstrations in the heart of immigrant-populated communities in California, Texas, Virginia, Arizona and elsewhere.
One of Gilchrist’s allies, James Chase—leader of the Minutemen-affiliated Border Watch—is a right-wing militarist.
In preparation for Border Watch’s stint patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border in July 2005, his web site advised people to bring baseball bats, machetes and stun guns. Chase also allowed handguns, rifles and shotguns.
Chase said of his border activities, “If I’m down there and I’ve got my pistol and they start popping my people, well, I’m going to have to start popping back, and I won’t have the range with a pistol.”
Gilchrist attended the group’s opening rally near San Diego. He used his national network to call for reinforcements, bringing about 100 armed racists to the border.
White supremacist connections
The newly created anti-immigrant movement may feature new leaders in name, but all are connected to the small but not insignificant American fascist movement. Many groups share members with the likes of the KKK, neo-Nazi organizations and neo-Confederate groups. The movement has, no doubt, been influenced by KKK rhetoric and tactics.
And, just like the KKK, the movement has members and supporters in the U.S. government and donors in the commanding heights of the U.S. capitalist class.
A close Gilchrist ally and co-thinker, Barbara Coe, whose California Coalition for Immigration Reform frequently provides volunteers for border patrols, has called Mexicans “savages” and “barbarians.”
Coe’s CCIR was a major force behind California’s Proposition 187 in 1994, which sought to deprive undocumented
Coe is also an admitted member of the Council of Conservative Citizens. The CCC evolved from the Civil Rights-era White Citizens’ Council, a Southern group that opposed the abolition of Jim Crow laws and called Blacks “a retrograde species of humanity.” Thurgood Marshall described the WCC as “the uptown Klan.” One cannot help but think that the three-letter acronym of the newer group’s name—CCC—is a nod to the KKK.
CCC vigorously defends the public display of the Confederate flag as a symbol of white identity, and features the flag on its web pages. Its racism is apparent. They openly state that the group “stands against the tide of nonwhite, Third World immigrants swamping this country.”
The Denver Post reported on Sept. 4 that Coe is a longtime supporter of U.S. congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), head of the House Immigration Reform Caucus and a government voice for the neo-fascist elements within the anti-immigrant movement. Tancredo was the first U.S. congressperson to propose building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to keep immigrants out of the country.
Tancredo has additional white supremacist credentials. On Sept. 9, he spoke at a barbeque held in his honor in Columbia, S.C. The League of the South, a leading group of the so-called neo-Confederate movement, hosted the event.
The League of the South is a Southern-based, white nationalist organization that advocates for “total Southern independence.” Michael Hill, the League’s president, has called slavery a “God-ordained institution” and opposes interracial marriage. He also opposes “universal human rights,” calling them an “evil genie,” impossible to put back in the bottle, since “rights for women, racial and ethnic minorities, homosexuals, pedophiles, etc., can be manufactured easily.”
One of the League’s board members, Jack Kershaw, has said, “Somebody needs to say a good word for slavery.
At the League’s meeting, Tancredo blasted America’s “cult of multiculturalism” while standing behind a lectern draped in a Confederate flag. To the congressman’s right, a portrait of Robert E. Lee peered out at the crowd of Minutemen activists, local politicians, and members of the League and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
At the close of Tancredo’s speech, several men in Confederate-themed clothing stood up and sang the first notes of “Dixie,” the Confederate anthem.
Tancredo has said that immigrants who cling to their language, heritage and loyalties while living in the United States threaten to turn the nation into a “Tower of Babel” that will collapse.
American Patrol and Save Our State
Another leader of the anti-immigrant hate movement is Glen Spencer of the well-funded, neo-fascist group, American Patrol, based in Sierra Vista, Ariz. Spencer was one of the first racists to call for “border patrols.” The Southern Poverty Law Center described him as the “Paul Revere of the anti-immigration movement.”
Spencer’s group is known for using small, radio-controlled aircraft and ground sensing equipment to track undocumented immigrants. This information is then relayed to the U.S. Border Patrol. Spencer also has assisted the Minutemen.
Spencer claims that the Mexican government is sending immigrants to the United States in an attempt to reconquer the American Southwest. “The United States is being invaded by Mexico with hostile intent. Its goal is to reverse the results of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. It is achieving this goal by demographic warfare,” said Spencer.
Unlike relative newcomers Gilchrist and Simcox, Spencer, has been building racist groups to oppose immigrants since the early 1990s. He was part of the Save Our State coalition with Coe’s CCIR that promoted California’s Prop. 187.
Like Gilchrist, some influential capitalist media pundits have embraced Spencer. He has appeared on Lou Dobb’s CNN show at least twice to spew racist venom. Spencer said, “The Mexican culture is based on deceit. Chicanos and Mexicanos lie as a means of survival.”
Spencer also has attended conferences sponsored by American Renaissance magazine. The stated purpose of the publication is to create “a literate, undeceived journal of race, immigration and the decline of civility.”
The racist magazine is infamous for arguing that Blacks are biologically inferior to whites. Its conferences routinely
Save Our State, a Los Angeles-based hate group named after the anti-immigrant coalition behind Prop. 187, has been leading protests against undocumented workers all over the city. Members of neo-Nazi groups have appeared at the rallies with swastika flags, chanting “Sieg Heil.”
SOS leader Joe Turner has said there is nothing he can do to stop Nazis from joining his group. Nor does he want to stop them. Turner, an unrepentant, arrogant racist, shares their white supremacist ideology. “Just because you’re a white separatist doesn’t make you a racist,” said Turner.
Turner and his miniscule group have been propped up by the capitalist class and its media appendages. The Wall Street Journal ran an uncritical piece about the neo-fascist activist in its Sept. 28 edition under the ridiculous title, “Grassroots groups boost clout in immigration fight.”
Turner’s stated goal is to prevent immigrants from turning California into a “Third World Cesspool.” SOS members advocate violence against Latino immigrants: “I see people with vans driving by, gunning them down on street corners, and leaving them to feed the buzzards and worms,” wrote SOS activist “Cazamigrante” (“Migrant hunter”) as part of an online discussion about pro-immigrant protests.
Turner regularly teams up with Gilchrist and Coe to hold racist rallies at immigrant day-laborer centers in southern California.
The hate rallies have been vigorously opposed by anti-racist organizations, including the Party for Socialism and Liberation and their allies in the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).
Defeat the racists with working-class unity
The anti-immigrant movement pales in comparison to the massive pro-immigrant demonstrations which took place last spring, but it illuminates a disturbing trend.
It is imperative that pro-immigrant and revolutionary forces militantly confront these racist groups, in order to expose them for what they really are—neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
They are one part of the capitalists’ strategy to defeat immigrants’ genuine aspirations for amnesty and full equality. American workers who may be susceptible to their propaganda need to understand this.
White supremacists are fundamentally racist and anti-worker. Standing with immigrants and the immigrant rights movement is in the interests of the entire multinational U.S. working class.