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.
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 such as Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity and others, 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.
These people should have you worried!
- Clifford Alford Las Cruces, N.M.
- Erin Anderson Arlington, Va.
- Garrett Chamberlain New Ipswich, N.H.
- Jim Chase Oceanside, Calif.
- Barbara Coe Huntington Beach, Calif.
- Madeleine Cosman San Diego, Calif.
- Russ Dove Tucson, Ariz.
- Jim Gilchrist Aliso Viejo, Calif.
- Patrick Haab Mesa, Ariz.
- Connie Hair Virginia Beach, Va.
- D.A. King Marietta, Ga.
- Joe McCutchen Fort Smith, Ark.
- Lupe Moreno Santa Ana, Calif.
- Glenn Spencer Cochise County, Ariz.
- Tom Tancredo Littleton, Colo.
- Joe Turner Ventura, Calif.
- Mike Vanderboegh Pinson, Ala.
- Robert Vasquez Caldwell, Idaho
- Frosty Wooldridge Louisville, Colo.
- Bob Wright Eunice, N.M.
- Luca Zanna Apple Valley, Calif.
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 this year, Madeleine Cosman rattles off a list of scary illnesses, each allegedly brought to this country by what she calls “deadly time bombs” — illegal aliens. She talks 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 claims 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.
Cosman talks endlessly about disease — but she’s no doctor. She is a wealthy lawyer who advises physicians on how to sell their medical practices, a former Renaissance Fair queen, a devotýe of hard-line libertarian Ayn Rand, and a member of the far-right Jews for the Preservation of Firearms. She’s also a contributor to the conspiracy-minded “News With Views” website, where she offers up fare like “Violent Sexual Predators Who Are Illegal Aliens” and “Bird Flu and Illegal Aliens,” wherein she theorizes that a Muslim terrorist could “create his own weapon of mass destruction” by smuggling an infected person across the border.
Cosman says she’s written more than a dozen books. Her most successful, she says, was Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony, a 1976 volume that she says 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, is not the only field in which Madeleine Cosman is prone to exaggeration.