Immigrants Targeted: Extremist Rhetoric Moves into the Mainstream
Capital Area Alliance Against Illegal Immigration
In April 2008, ten groups (in addition to an advisory group, the American Council for Immigration Reform) founded the Capital Area Alliance Against Illegal Immigration (the Alliance), a coalition whose mission is to “promote a united strategy of education, outreach and advocacy to end political and legislative support for illegal immigration in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.” To reach this end, the Alliance has stated its opposition to “sanctuary policies” and seeks to eliminate government-provided social services for undocumented immigrants in the Capital region.
In the Alliance, anti-immigrant groups, widely viewed as mainstream, are operating in partnership with virulently anti-Hispanic border vigilante groups that monitor undocumented immigrants. Ostensibly mainstream groups often conceal such connections; one of the reasons that the founding of the Alliance is significant is because it openly reveals these ties.
Two anti-immigrant activists, Chris Simcox, leader of the border vigilante Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (and co-founder of the 2005 Minuteman Project) and Greg Letiecq of Save the Old Dominion, comprise the leadership of six of these ten groups. Glenn Spencer, who has promoted anti-Mexican conspiracy theories, is the leader of one of the other Alliance groups, the Arizona-based American Border Patrol.
The Alliance formally announced its founding at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on April 10, 2008, and it has gained coverage in the mainstream media. Rather than discuss immigration policy, the Alliance has promoted classic anti-immigrant themes that demonize individuals. The press release announcing the Alliance’s formation states:
Sanctuary policies undermine public safety, school systems, and hospitals, and erode the overall quality of life for Capital area residents. The growing social, criminal and financial burden of illegal immigration has reached unsustainable proportions. Local businesses, Americans seeking jobs and regional communities suffer as a result of this lawlessness.
The Capital Area Alliance is comprised of the following coalition partners:
- American Council for Immigration Reform (Virginia) – A non-profit anti-immigrant group, it acts in an advisory capacity to the Alliance. The Council works with several anti-immigrant activists and groups, including other Alliance partners. It has run ads in the mainstream media, brought activists to Washington, D.C. to lobby, and made contacts with elected officials. The group links its Website to similar anti-immigrant groups, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and NumbersUSA, and the Council’s blog includes a link to VDare, a racist Website, under the “favorites” section.
- American Border Patrol, also known as American Patrol (Arizona) – An anti-immigrant group that uses high-tech equipment to monitor the flow of illegal immigrants across the Arizona border. For more than a decade, group leader Glenn Spencer, who mixes anti-Mexican bigotry with anti-government rhetoric, has warned of a plan by Mexicans to "invade" and "conquer" the Southwestern United States. Spencer moved his group from California to Sierra Vista, Arizona, in August 2002, in order to be, in his words, "on the front lines." He has appeared at events sponsored by white supremacists and racists, and racist and anti-government extremist groups across the country have embraced his rhetoric.
- Defend DC (Washington, D.C.) – Its leader, William Buchanan, serves as the Alliance’s Washington, D.C. spokesman. The group’s founding goal was to prevent the establishment of a day labor center in a specific area of Washington, D.C. To that end, the group held a joint demonstration with Help Save Maryland, another Alliance partner, at a Home Depot in Washington, D.C. in December 2007. The group’s information packet reveals its ideology: “Illegal alien workers are incompatible with a decent neighborhood. Public urination, public drinking, sexual harassment, and property intrusions are only the beginning…The fabric of the community slowly unravels.”
- Judicial Watch (Washington, D.C.) – A conservative non-profit group that seeks to act as a government watchdog. It files lawsuits and engages in various types of campaigns to “root out government corruption.” The Judicial Watch Website was the first to feature the Alliance’s press release. Judicial Watch has, for years, been waging its own campaign against the “illegal alien invasion,” claiming that undocumented immigration is an economic and security threat. The group’s staff officially participated in the Minuteman Project, a month-long border vigilante exercise along the United States-Mexico border in Arizona in April 2005.
- Maryland Minuteman CDC (Maryland) –A chapter of the border vigilante Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a national group led by Chris Simcox and headquartered in Arizona. The two-year-old chapter mainly exists as a Web entity; its page is currently updated with news stories rather than actual chapter activity. In 2007, the chapter was more active. It held meetings, co-sponsored an anti-immigrant rally, and encouraged members to attend an anti-immigrant rally in Washington, D.C., staged by the Dustin Inman Society, a Georgia-based anti-immigrant group.
- Virginia Minuteman CDC (Virginia) – A chapter of the border vigilante Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a national group led by Chris Simcox and headquartered in Arizona. Chapter leader George Taplin has appeared in a mainstream documentary about immigration, spoken at several community events pertaining to immigration, fought to close a day labor center in Virginia to reduce the numbers of undocumented workers in the area, and has been quoted in mainstream media outlets. In May 2007, the chapter sponsored the founding meeting of Help Save Virginia Beach, a group created to encourage the training of local police to enforce federal immigration law.
- Help Save Maryland (Maryland) – In its mission and activities, the group supports anti-immigrant policies, including empowering local law enforcement to initiate deportation proceedings, closing day labor centers, and removing benefits to undocumented immigrants. The group has chapters in 10 counties. Chuck Floyd is the Alliance’s Maryland spokesperson, and group member Pree Glenn-Graves, who runs the Prince Georges County chapter, was a vocal participant at the Alliance’s press conference at the National Press Club. She stated, “We're going to start getting overrun in Prince George's County. I can see it happening…I see it happening. Even our Kmart [sic] has been converted to Spanish. Everything is in Spanish and English.” In April 2008, Joe Guzzardi, the editor of VDare, a racist Website, quoted group leader Brad Botwin in an article he wrote and posted to VDare. Guzzardi’s article, which supported anti-immigrant activity, is featured on the Help Save Maryland blog.
- Save the Old Dominion (Virginia) – This group is itself a coalition comprised of seven anti-immigrant groups: Help Save Loudoun, Vienna Citizens Coalition/Group, Help Save Hampton Roads, Centreville Citizens Coalition, Help Protect Culpeper, Save Stafford, and Help Save Manassas. Three of these groups--Help Save Loudoun, Vienna Citizens Coalition/Group and Help Save Manassas--are positioning themselves as independent members of the Alliance. Greg Letiecq, an anti-immigrant leader and head of the Virginia-based Help Save Manassas, is the executive director of Save the Old Dominion and also serves as the Alliance’s Virginia spokesman.
- Help Save Loudoun (Virginia) – Member of Save the Old Dominion; also a member of Help Save Virginia, an anti-immigrant coalition containing four subgroups (Help Save Herndon, Help Save Loudoun, Help Save Fairfax, Help Save Hampton Roads). Help Save Loudoun contains both a grassroots component (“formed to address and troubleshoot community improvement issues”), and a political action committee. The latter was “formed to promote the election of public officials who are dedicated to implementing immigration law enforcement measures at the local and state levels; and reversing the trend of illegal migration into Northern Virginia.”
- Vienna Citizens Coalition, which also appears to be the Vienna Citizens Group (Virginia) -- Member of Save the Old Dominion; it describes itself as a “multicultural group, of varying ages and stages in life” and the Website also states, “We can turn the tide on crime, day laborers, vagrancy, and zoning problems in Vienna. It's up to us to take this stand and take back our town.” The group claims to meet once a month.
- Help Save Manassas (Virginia) – Member of Save the Old Dominion. Greg Letiecq, the Virginia spokesperson for the Alliance, runs Help Save Manassas and Save the Old Dominion. Letiecq has attracted hundreds of people to Help Save Manassas through his personal blog, “Black Velvet Bruce Li,” reportedly one of the most highly trafficked blogs in the state. Having just commemorated its one-year anniversary in April 2008, Help Save Manassas, which claims to have 2,000 members, including elected officials, has proven to be one of the most influential and active entities in the anti-immigrant movement in the Capital region. Its legislative committee worked with a member of the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors and the legal arm of FAIR to draft a resolution that “seeks to deny services to illegal immigrants and sharply increase immigration enforcement by police.” The resolution was unanimously passed in July 2007. A group newsletter includes language representative of Letiecq’s ideology:
Our county has been under assault from the influx of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who have taken advantage of our lax enforcement of the law at the federal, state and local levels. These border crashers have contributed to rising crime rates, increasing burdens on our schools, hospitals and public services, and the very destruction of our American culture.