Brenda Walker and Dan Amato Inject Anti-Immigrant Fervor into the Blogosphere
POSTED: May 12, 2009
Dan “Digger” Amato is a Pennsylvania-based anti-immigrant blogger and activist. Since May 2003, Amato has made his name known in anti-immigrant circles with prolific postings on his DiggersRealm blog and repeat appearances at anti-immigrant rallies, where he is often featured as a speaker. Numerous anti-immigrant figures and groups view Amato as a source of information and inspiration. He is perhaps one of the best examples in the anti-immigrant movement of a figure who has used Internet technology to inspire action, to network, and to build his reputation in the real world.
Amato's almost daily posts on his DiggersRealm blog often glorify anti-immigrant figures, groups, and themes. He fills the site with event announcements, summaries, and news items mostly related to Latino immigration. Although Amato is based in Pennsylvania and travels mostly in the Northeast, he blogs about events and immigration-related events and issues that occur throughout the country.
In addition to reporting on actions carried out by anti-immigrant leaders, Amato encourages his readers to take action. He makes pleas to individuals to donate to anti-immigrant groups, and he has boasted about readers supporting his own travels to attend anti-immigrant events. He also prompts his readers to attend rallies and take other action to support and further the anti-immigrant movement.
Through DiggersRealm, Amato gives other anti-immigrant figures a platform to express their views and promote their groups and events. He frequently includes the writings and videos of other xenophobic activists and bloggers based in other states on his site.
Participation in Anti-Immigrant Events/Rallies
In addition to his extensive blog, Amato often attends, participates, and speaks at anti-immigrant events and rallies in the Northeast. During an October 2008 rally staged by the anti-immigrant group Save Shenandoah in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, Amato made a speech in which he referred to northern California as “occupied territory.” (Shenandoah became a focal point for immigration-related activism following the murder of an undocumented immigrant from Mexico in July 2008.)
Amato has spewed anti-immigrant rhetoric during speeches at events hosted by Voice of the People (VOP), a Pennsylvania-based anti-immigrant group. He spoke at a VOP rally in August 2008 and at another rally staged by the group in May 2008 in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, a flashpoint for anti-immigrant advocacy and legislation. He has posted video footage of himself at these events on his blog and also on YouTube. At the May 2008 rally, Amato claimed that undocumented immigrants “have no loyalty to the United States…” He further alleged, “Every night while you sleep, Americans are being killed at the hands of illegal aliens in this country. The list of victims is growing…Are you gonna spread the word far and wide that our country has been invaded? Are you going to fight for your country?”
Amato went on to refer to undocumented immigrants as “a group of people who are only here to rape our wallets and leave our children destitute.” In addition to several anti-immigrant figures who also spoke at the May 2008 event, Amato shared the podium with Carmen Morales, a xenophobic activist who has a history of demonizing undocumented immigrants. Morales is the Vice-Chair of You Don't Speak for Me (YDSFM), a Latino-run anti-immigrant group that is an offshoot of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the largest anti-immigrant group in the country.
During his speech at another Voice of the People rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in September 2007, also posted online, Amato told the crowd, “I've been appalled as I report on story after story of Americans being raped, murdered, and killed by vicious illegal alien thugs in our streets and behind the vehicles of cars.”
He directly attributed the presence of undocumented immigrants to “declining education” levels in Arizona and California and asked the audience, “Are you gonna wait until you have to fear for your own safety? Are you gonna wait for one of your family members to be assaulted or killed by an illegal alien?” Included among Amato's fellow speakers at the September 2007 event were anti-Semite Paul Topete, lead singer of the anti-government, conspiracy-promoting band Poker Face and Mariann Davies, a Vice Chair of YDSFM.
“Are you gonna spread the word far and
wide that our country has been invaded?”
Dan Amato at a May 2008 rally
When Voice of the People staged a rally in Freeland, Pennsylvania in August 2007, Amato publicly alleged, “We have sex predators, drug runners, and other assorted criminals crossing our borders daily.” He declared that undocumented immigration is “destroying the fabric of communities across this nation” and claimed, “We are currently under another form of attack today, a shadow invasion being openly supported and pushed by businesses and politicians in this country.”
A month earlier, alongside anti-immigrant blogger and activist Ruth Miller, Amato helped organize and spoke at a protest in front of the Mexican consulate in Philadelphia. At the event, he publicly tore images of the Mexican flag and spoke.
“We are currently under another form
of attack today, a shadow invasion…”
Dan Amato at an August 2007 rally
In April 2007, Amato participated in “Hold Their Feet to the Fire,” a multi-day anti-immigrant event staged by FAIR in conjunction with other anti-immigrant groups from around the country. Amato was an official blogger, posting information about each event to his blog, as a part of Blogger's Row, a panel of bloggers culled by the North Carolina-based xenophobic group Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee (ALIPAC). Amato's co-bloggers included Minuteman border vigilante leader Tony Dolz, anti-immigrant activist and speaker Frosty Wooldridge, and Chelene Nightingale, a leader in Save Our State, a California-based anti-immigrant group.
Amato has befriended several figures in the anti-immigrant movement. They often invite him to speak at rallies, give interviews on Internet radio, and they link to his blog from their Web sites. Conversely, Amato supports their views, publicizes their activities on his blog, and provides links to numerous anti-immigrant sites from his blog. Several times, Amato has met with other activists to strategize and work together to plan events.
Perhaps his closest ally in the movement is Ruth Miller. She runs the anti-immigrant blog Illegal Protest, has acted as a rally organizer, and has spoken at anti-immigrant rallies staged by other groups. Amato and Miller met during Feet to the Fire in 2007, and they have since spoken alongside one another at rallies, organized a protest in front of the Mexican consulate in Philadelphia in July 2007, and traveled to and participated in several other events together. Amato titled a blog entry “Why I'm Fond of Ruth Miller,” and the DiggersRealm blog features several links to her Web site, which is dedicated to “American Citizens who are tired of the illegal alien invasion.”
Amato has consistently expressed support for William Gheen, a North Carolina anti-immigrant activist who often has publicly demonized undocumented immigrants as criminals, drug dealers, disease carriers, and rapists. Amato has called Gheen's group, ALIPAC, “the future of immigration groups in America,” and he has asked the public to donate to ALIPAC.
In addition to participating in a blogger's panel that Gheen organized, Amato has twice appeared on Gheen's Internet radio show, Last Americans Standing. Gheen featured Amato in an August 2008 show dedicated to promoting anti-immigrant bloggers. When Amato called in to Gheen's first show in July 2008, Gheen called him “a great example for this movement.” Last Americans Standing is syndicated by the Republic Broadcasting Network, an Internet radio hosting service which also carries shows hosted by anti-Semites and anti-government figures.
Amato has also affiliated himself with leaders of You Don't Speak for Me (YDSFM), a Latino-run anti-immigrant group. He has spoken alongside YDSFM Vice Chair Carmen Morales at anti-immigrant events. When describing Morales's speech at an October 2007 rally in New Jersey, Amato wrote on his blog that she “brought the place to life with her lively and passionate anger at the absolute assault this nation is under with the illegal alien invasion.” Morales also posted a letter that she wrote to the mayor of San Diego, California, to the DiggersRealm blog. In her letter, Morales objected to the proclamation of a “National Council of La Raza” day in San Diego in July 2008. The National Council of La Raza is a Latino civil rights and advocacy organization.
In addition to Morales, Amato has worked alongside his “good friend” Mariann Davies, another YDSFM Vice Chair. He credits a personal meeting with Davies, in part, for his July 2007 decision to move to Philadelphia to continue to “fight illegal immigration.” Davies has sent material to Amato to be posted on the DiggersRealm blog, and Amato has participated in anti-immigrant events with her.
Amato has also maintained a close relationship with Voice of the People, a Pennsylvania-based anti-immigrant group, led by Dan Smeriglio, with whom Amato is also closely affiliated. Amato has spoken at rallies staged by Voice of the People, and he has posted information about Smeriglio and Voice of the People's activity. In turn, Smeriglio has posted language praising Amato to the DiggersRealm blog. In one comment posted in February 2008, Smeriglio proclaimed that he is “writing in DAN AMATO, FOR PRESIDENT!!! We need a person who isn't afraid to tell it the way it is as commander in chief! He has served our country and continues to serve our country on a day to day basis, by keeping us informed and by holding those who are deserving accountable for their blatant acts of treason against this nation!”
In addition to more mainstream anti-immigrant activists, Amato has affiliated himself with the Minutemen border vigilante movement; Minutemen chapters often stage armed patrols of the Mexican-American border. Amato has made numerous posts to his blog covering Minutemen activity throughout the county, and he has worked with leaders in Minutemen groups. During the April 2007 Hold Their Feet to the Fire events in Washington D.C., Amato joined a rally in front of the White House, where he held a sign with Raymond Herrera, the National Rally Spokesperson for the Minuteman Project, one of the largest Minutemen groups, based in California. Also during Hold Their Feet to the Fire, Amato worked on a blogger's panel with Tony Dolz, who claims to be “one of the founding members of the Minuteman Grassroots Movement and the California Legislative Liaison and Greater Los Angeles Chapter Leader for the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.” The latter is a large, Arizona-based Minutemen faction.