[HIMC] BTL Q&A 4-17-06: Immigrants in the U.S. Take to the Streets & Anti-Immigrant Activists Linked with Racist Hate Groups

Scott Harris sharris at snet.net
Mon Apr 17 23:04:17 PDT 2006

>From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines

Distributed by Squeaky Wheel Productions
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release April 17, 2006

Some Anti-Immigrant Activists
Have Known Connections
with Racist Hate Groups

Interview with Mark Potok,
director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project,
conducted by Scott Harris

Listen in RealAudio:

In a series of giant protests demanding fair treatment and legalization,
hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their supporters marched in more
than 130 cities around the U.S. on April 10. A few days earlier, Dallas,
saw more than half a million people come out for one of the largest
protests in Texas history.

The unprecedented demonstrations that -- many observers believe
proclaimed the birth of a new civil rights movement -- were triggered by
provisions in legislation passed by the Republican-controlled House of
Representatives that will make undocumented immigrants and those who
assist them felons. Negotiations over other more moderate measures being
considered in the Senate made little progress, but will be taken up
again when Congress reconvenes after the Easter recess.

Although 63 percent of Americans surveyed in a recent Washington
Post-ABC poll reject new laws that would criminalize undocumented
immigrants already in the U.S., members of groups like the Minutemen,
have been accused of acting as vigilantes and stirring up racism and
xenophobia around the immigration issue. Between The Lines' Scott Harris
spoke with Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's
Intelligence Project, who discusses known connections between
anti-immigrant activists and extreme right -wing and racist groups.

MARK POTOK: We began to see about five years ago, real conflicts  coming
up in particular in southeast Arizona which, because of the federal
government essentially   really slamming the door shut on the border in
both California and Texas, has become a kind of one major crossing
point from the south into this country. Of course, it's a terribly
dangerous crossing  across the Sonora desert.

Way back then, at the very beginning , we saw some of the traditional
anti-immigration groups,   or immigration restriction groups like  FAIR,
the Federation for American Immigration Reform. We saw officials from
groups like that at very small meetings in Arizona, even in Alabama
where I am and other states -- many of which were also attended by
"unrobed" Klansmen. So we saw at the very beginning of this a kind of
scary mixing  of more mainstream immigration  restrictionists  and
people who are really in our (SPLC) world: Klansmen, Neo-Nazis and so
on. That has continued.

I don't mean to suggest that all anti-immigration  groups, or all people
involved in the recent Minutemen  groups are secret Nazis or unrobed
Klansmen, but a lot of the leadership  does have those kinds of

We just put out an investigative  report that looks at essentially the
main leaders of this movement , 20-25 people. And while you cannot say
that all of them are racists, straight up racists or white
supremacists,  what you can certainly say is that a great many of them
are racists or certainly bigots. It's really about Hispanic immigration
, brown skin immigration for them as opposed to any other kind.

In addition, a lot of people in this movement are extremely,  basically
para-militaristic. They're a bit like the militias of the 1990s. They're
quite fascinated with guns, they want to go down to the border armed
with AK-15s and god knows what else, and some how stop what is depicted
as a terrible  threat to our society, an invasion and so on.

And the last piece of it is that most people in this movement  are
subscribers to a kind of fantasy conspiracy theory, the so-called , "El
Plan de Aztlan," which is supposed to be a secret plan by the Mexican
government  in league with American-born Hispanics, that is to say
Chicanos. What they're up to is making plans to re-capture, re-conquer
the American Southwest and make it a part of Mexico. Of course, there's
nothing to support it; I mean, there is no such conspiracy. But it's
these things  working together. The racism, the guns and the conspiracy
theories  that really are extremely worrying.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What are the connections between the Minutemen ,
other anti-immigration groups and  congressional Republicans  that have
marshaled  through the House of Representatives  some pretty draconian
legislation that would criminalize  the more than 11 million immigrants
who are in this country without documents?

MARK POTOK: As far as the relationship of  the Minutemen and groups like
the Minutemen to some people in power, I think that is a very worrying
situation and one worth talking about.

I am thinking  in particular of a congressman named Tom Tancredo.
Tancredo is a Republican from Colorado and also a man who was viewed I
think even within Congress , up until 9/11, as very much an extremist
sort of fellow. Listeners may remember that this is the guy who called
not so long ago for the bombing of Mecca, among other things.

Tancredo ran a fairl y extremist caucus , called the Congressional
Immigration  Refor m Caucus, which had about 6 or 7 members until 9/11.
Today it's got something more on the order of 80 people.

What's worrying about all this is the following: The way Tom Tancredo
talks about illegal immigrants, undocumented workers, is quite amazing
and not that different from the way, say some of our Nazi groups talk
for instance , about the Jews.

To give you an example of what I'm talking about, Tancredo told an
audience recently  that illegal aliens , "are coming here to kill me,
and kill you and kill our families."   That just strikes me as an
amazing statement. This is from a U.S. Congressman who is describing
literally hundreds of thousands of people, as crossing this border in
order to kill us.

It's also obviously I think defaming  the 11 million or so people who
are here -- the vast majority of whom I think any sensible person
understands perfectly well  -- are here to make a living.

This is just propaganda. The frightening  thing , as I've said, is that
a lot of the worst propaganda is coming  from  people like Tom Tancredo,
a U.S. congressman.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What can people do to expose and counter the racist,
xenophobic message regarding immigration that's coming from groups like
the Minutemen that we've been talking about?

MARK POTOK: I think the best thing  for people to do is to join the
debate locally. This is a debate that's raging all over the country ;
it's quite amazing.

I think that the temperature has changed very significantly in the last
few weeks. We have seen in the last few weeks two absolutely massive
pro-immigration , or pro-immigrant if you will,  demonstrations. That I
think was quite unexpected and has also affected  the ongoing  debate
within the Republican party and in Congress in general.

I suspect there's no prospect at all of 11 million people being deported
from this country, no matter what certain people may say when they stand
up before the TV cameras.

Nevertheless , I think it's a movement that presents a lot of dangers to
us as a society . I think that people need to simply  get involved. I
think that it's an important debate and as members of a democratic
society we ought to know something about it.

Contact the Southern Poverty Law Center at (334) 956-8303 or visit their
intelligence project website at www.intelligencereport.org and

Related links at http://www.btlonline.org/btl042106.html#1hed

* "Felony Threat Rouses Immigrants"
* "Huge Crowds March for Immigration Rights"
* "Crackdowns Smack of Racism"


Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be
heard on more than 40 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our
website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured
on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The
Lines for the week ending  April 17, 2006. This Between The Lines Q&A
was compiled by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo.


>From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines

Distributed by Squeaky Wheel Productions
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release April 17, 2006

Immigrants in the U.S. Take
to the Streets to Demand Equality

Interview with David Bacon,
labor journalist,
conducted by Scott Harris

Listen in RealAudio:

As immigration reform legislation was debated in Congress, hundreds of
thousands of immigrants and their supporters have marched in cities from
coast to coast across America. Their large numbers -- half a million in
Chicago and estimates of a million in Los Angeles -- illustrated what's
at stake for the immigrant community if proposed laws are passed that
criminalize undocumented workers living in the United States.

The leading legislative proposals now before Congress deal with two main
paths to reform. The version passed by the House, sponsored by Ohio GOP
Rep. Sensenbrenner, takes a punitive approach by making undocumented
immigrants and those who assist them felons -- increasing employer
sanctions and border security -- but offers no provisions for
legalization. The Senate is considering a less draconian measure
sponsored by Senators John McCain of Arizona and Ted Kennedy of
Massachusetts that proposes a guest worker program and a process for

Within this often emotional debate, strains of xenophobia can be seen in
groups like the Minutemen, whose volunteers -- criticized by many as
vigilantes -- patrol border areas without government sanction. Between
The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with labor journalist David Bacon, who
takes a look at the U.S. immigration debate and the winners and losers
among corporations and workers if provisions of some proposed reform
legislation are signed into law.

DAVID BACON: Since the late 1990s, large U.S. corporations got together
in a quite formal coalition called the "Central Worker Immigration
Coalition" and  began advocating the creation of guest worker programs.
These are programs that are kind of like the old "Bracero" program that
existed in the U.S. between 1942 and 1964, and what these programs would
allow companies to do is to go to countries like Mexico, or Central
America, or the Philippines or the Caribbean, and recruit workers who
would then come to the U.S. under temporary visas and who would be
subject to a great deal of control by their employers, and consequently,
would essentially be forced to work as a much cheaper source of labor
than companies might be able to get if they had to depend on the
domestic labor supply.

And they have been advocating this in Congress, quite consistently over
a period of years. So that's sort of been one of the dynamics pushing
this debate forward, and I think that on the one hand, big companies,
big corporations see that their time has come, in essence, that this is
a good moment for them to push for them, because of the extreme
xenophobic nature of some of the proposals in Congress, they've been
able to put forward their guest worker plans and pretend that these are
somehow "liberal" alternatives to proposals like the one by Congressman
Sensenbrenner that passed through the House last December, that would
essentially turn all 12 million undocumented people in the United States
into federal felons.

And I think that they're also nervous about Bush' s declining political
capital, and the fact that the administration has only a little over two
years to go and if they're going to get what they want, they have to
kind of make their move.

BETWEEN THE LINES: David, I'd like to get your comment on the massive
mobilization of immigrants and their supporters all across this country
in these giant demonstrations that I think really shocked the country to
some extent. What affect, if any, will these demonstrations of
opposition to the most draconian bills being proposed in Congress --
what affect, if any, do you think it'll have?

DAVID BACON: These were demonstrations of ordinary working people and
families who came out of their homes and came into the street, in most
cases, for the first time in their lives. And what is causing this on
the one hand, is, as you say, these draconian proposals, especially the
proposals that would turn 12 million people without papers into federal
felons. That one has been like an electric shock for people's families,
because there are so many families in the U.S. now, that have family
members who would become criminals were this to pass.

But, I think there is also a positive demand that's being made by these
marches and that is, these are marches overwhelmingly for equality.
People are saying, "we want equal rights, we want to be part of the
community, just like everybody else. We don't want a second-class
status. We don't want to be looked as inferior, as just simply people
whose only function in life is to work and make other people rich. We
want equality." And I think that puts them very squarely in the middle
of the tradition of civil rights movements historically in this country.
This is the same demand that was made by African American people when
they went into the streets in Selma, Alabama in the 1950s and the early

When you take those demands for equality and you measure them up against
what Congress has in mind, you can see how far from reality our
congressional members are. These are hopefully going to produce the mode
of power to defeat both of these approaches in Congress, both the
criminalization and the guest worker approaches. These are hundreds of
thousands of people who, when they get organized and mobilized, can
vote, can organize unions, can exercise political and economic power and
are going to do that.

BETWEEN THE LINES: We did leave out an important element of this
conversation and maybe we can devote the last minute or so if you have
another moment to spare here. The situation in Mexico is such that many
people feel they are forced to come to the U.S. to look for work to
support their families.

DAVID  BACON: The North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA increased
the pressure on Mexicans to come here. Corn exports, privatization of
Mexican businesses with the layoffs of tens of thousands of workers,
maintaining a low-wage economy for the convenience of U.S. corporations
that wanted to go to Mexico and build factories in order to cut their
labor costs. All of these things produce economic pressure on people and
how people respond to it.

Mexico's a big country and people respond in a variety of different
ways. But one big response is people come here. In fact, in Mexico, the
kind of common and accepted wisdom is that every family in Mexico now
has somebody, some member of it living on the other side of the border
in the U.S. That’s how common its become. So, if we don't like that, we
should stop negotiating treaties like that. We should stop negotiating a
world order for the convenience of corporations and their ability to cut
their labor costs.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the left-wing candidate for president of
Mexico basically has said that his solution to the migration question is
not like the current President Fox's support for this guest worker plan
of Bush's. But what he proposes to do is to raise income, especially in
the Mexican countryside, and make it possible for people to stay in
their towns of origin, rather than being forced to leave for economic

Read Bacon's articles online at his website http://dbacon.igc.org

Related links on our website at http://www.btlonline.org#1hed:

* "Immigration Reform In Living Color"
* "'Si Se Puede!' On Chicago's Streets"
* "Thousands Rally Across The Country For Immigrants' Rights,"
* "More Than 500,000 Rally In Los Angeles For Immigrants' Rights,"
* People for the American Way at www.pfaw.org
* The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights at www.nnirr.org

* Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras at
* Mexican Labor News and Analysis at
* Jobs With Justice www.jwj.org/corepage.htm
* United Farm Workers www.ufw.org
* AFL-CIO Home Page www.aflcio.org
* Change to Win Labor Coalition www.calaborfed.org

Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be
heard on more than 40 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our
website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured
on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The
Lines for the week ending April 14, 2006. This Between The Lines Q&A was
compiled by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo.
-------------- next part --------------
If you are interested in Between The Lines Summary, a summary of the week's interviews with RealAudio link, email btlsummary-subscribe at lists.riseup.net.

To subscribe to Between The Lines Q&A, email btlqa-subscribe at lists.riseup.net.
To unsubscribe, email btlqa-unsubscribe at lists.riseup.net

More information about the Imc-houston mailing list