The platform of the North Carolina-based Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee (ALIPAC), led by William Gheen, asserts that “more should be done to reduce illegal immigration.” To achieve this policy aim, the group pledges to utilize the work of its members and contributors to support “candidates for office that are serious about immigration reform” and encourages members to take individual action and lobby elected officials. Gheen, however, advances his group’s mission by branding undocumented immigrants as murderous criminals infecting Americans with diseases.
Strident anti-immigrant rhetoric
Gheen’s rhetoric demonstrates an agenda that goes beyond the enforcement of immigration laws. He regularly demonizes immigrants as drunk drivers, gang members, invaders, murderers, and disease-carriers. In a June 2008 rally, sponsored by ALIPAC in North Carolina, Gheen stated that “we have illegal aliens that are drinking and driving, and vicious, very dangerous, gangs in this state that are killing people...”
Gheen has gone so far as to refer to undocumented immigrants as Nazis. This particular comparison followed a December 2007 appearance on a FOX News: Fox & Friends segment in which he discussed the presence of undocumented immigrants in North Carolina community colleges. Gheen opposed offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants and argued that they take seats away from American students by attending the community colleges. In a February 2008 post in the commentary below the YouTube video of the segment, an individual stated, “Hey, this sort of sounds like the propaganda that Hitler used to stir up hatred and blame the Jews for all of the economic woes of Germany…” In response, Gheen wrote, “Yea, except this time Americans are the Jews and the illegal aliens and their supporters are the Nazis.”
In spite of his statements demonizing undocumented immigrants, mainstream media around the nation continue to portray Gheen as a grass roots activist, failing to cite his ideology, activities, and affiliations. In addition, Gheen is often used as a spokesman to talk about immigration issues on national television.
In an October 2007 appearance on CNN to discuss local police officers’ enforcement of immigration law in Irving, Texas, Gheen stated, “We got a half a million felon illegal aliens that are on the run, half a million… that are out there tonight, murdering, raping, assaulting and stealing from Americans…” He later continued, “…the illegal aliens must leave and the existing laws must be enforced or America is going to descend into the type of anarchy that a lot of these people are trying to get away from.”
Gheen’s rhetoric was even more extreme at an August 2007 rally in North Carolina, where he stated, “Illegal aliens in this country have set up ethnic cleansing zones, ethnic cleansing zones where if you walk past the wrong sign post, the invisible line, you’re under the threat of death.”
In July 2007, Gheen appeared with Ted Hayes, leader of the anti-immigrant organization Choose Black America, on a Fox News segment. He demonstrated his bigotry by stating, “I can’t see how anybody would think that someone who’s here illegally in the country that’s stolen someone’s ID, stolen someone’s American job, should then be able to rape, assault or murder and not be deported.”
Gheen also inflames anti-immigrant sentiment by falsely asserting that immigrants bring disease into the nation. During a June 2007 radio interview, he said:
We've got bedbugs back in all, almost all of our 58 [sic] states. We've got TB on the rise, we've got hepatitis, we've got HIV, we've got diseases like Chagas disease, which is a horrifying disease, but also, much like TB, is very, very difficult to treat at all, and it's coming in because of the, the lack of enforcement of our immigration laws and, and the end result is Americans are suffering, Americans are dying.
During a speech at a June 2007 rally in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, in support of that city’s restrictive ordinance against undocumented immigrants, Gheen said:
I want to talk about crime and disease for a second…They broke the law when they stole your identity, wrecking your life. They broke the law when they took a job they weren’t supposed to have…These people have shown a pattern of disrespect and a pattern of criminal behavior coming from gang-rule areas where there is no law. And that is what our nation is becoming like because it’s common sense that when you inject that into a nation, that is what your nation becomes like…We got a problem. Well I got some news. According to some rough math I did 20 minutes ago, we’re getting four to ten TB active cases rushing across our southern border every night.
Encouraging a Lou Dobbs presidential bid
In an effort to highlight its own platform, in January 2008, ALIPAC launched a Website to encourage a Presidential run by Lou Dobbs, a national television and radio host who has routinely demonized immigrants on his shows. On the Website, ALIPAC created a platform for a Dobbs campaign and is accepting campaign donation pledges. ALIPAC has also posted links to Dobbs’s television and radio shows on the site and in a February 2008 “open letter,” Gheen stated, “America needs you to run for President, Mr. Dobbs and I hope you will meet with me in a few weeks to allow me to plead the case.”
The campaign to support Dobbs gained wide mainstream coverage. A January 7, 2008, Wall Street Journal article discussed Gheen’s support of Dobbs and described ALIPAC as “an influential grass-roots group that favors strict enforcement of immigration laws…”
Ties to the Minutemen
Gheen also maintains affiliations with the Minutemen. The Minutemen are a loose network of local chapters around the country, whose primary goal is to keep undocumented immigrants from Mexico out of the United States. The more extreme Minutemen chapters advocate patrols of the Mexican-American border by armed volunteers.
Chris Simcox, the leader of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), was a featured speaker at a rally in June 2008 in North Carolina sponsored by ALIPAC. Gheen introduced Simcox as “my friend, my ally.” In a June 2008 post to the MCDC Website, Simcox wrote, “Together, the MCDC working with ALIPAC and other pro-border security and pro-legal immigration groups in North Carolina, we are launching the Battle for NC anew!”
In July 2007, Gheen was a guest on Minuteman Radio, hosted by Simcox. The day before, he spoke at an anti-immigrant conference in Chicago. Fellow speakers included Ted Hayes and Illinois Minuteman leader and prominent YDSFM member Rosanna Pulido.
ALIPAC had a significant presence at the April 2007 anti-immigrant “Hold Their Feet to the Fire,” a series of anti-immigrant events in Washington, D.C., that brought together several members of Congress, anti-immigration groups, media figures, border vigilante groups, and citizen activists from around the country. Though “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” included several mainstream, legitimate figures who refrain from extreme language in their opposition to immigration, ALIPAC invited Los Angeles Minuteman chapter leader Tony Dolz to become an official participant in Blogger’s Row, a small group of individuals who dedicated three days to “meet with citizen activists, talk radio hosts, and elected officials” and catalogue the events in their online journals.
In July 2008, Gheen began to host Last Americans Standing, a radio show on the Republic Broadcasting Network (RBN). RBN also hosts the Internet radio shows of anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and anti-government figures. In April 2005, Gheen was a guest on The Political Cesspool, a Tennessee-based radio show hosted by white supremacist James Edwards that regularly features neo-Nazis and white supremacists as guests.
Featured Video: "William Gheen of ALIPAC in Hazelton, June 3, 2007"
This video, shared on YouTube, presents ALIPAC leader William Gheen’s speech at a June 2007 rally in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, in support of that city’s restrictive ordinance against undocumented immigrants.
Please click on minutes 4:25 – 3:00 for highlights of William Gheen’s speech.