Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Anti Immigration and White Nationalism

The New Nativism
T@P The alarming overlap between white nationalists and mainstream
anti-immigrant forces.

By Leonard Zeskind
Issue Date: 11.23.05

More than 400 anti-immigration activists gathered in Las Vegas over Memorial Day
weekend to bemoan President Bush’s failure to close the borders. One described
the United States as a nation at war “every time a Mexican flag is planted on
American soil.” They celebrated their most recent success: a “border watch” in
Arizona by fewer than 400 Minutemen vigilantes that had generated millions of
dollars of free advertising. In the aftermath, Minutemen shops opened in Texas,
Colorado, and Tennessee.

The two dozen speakers in Las Vegas reflected the breadth of a new movement
still in birth: the parents of a dead September 11 firefighter, a police chief
from New Hampshire, Pat Buchanan’s vice-presidential running mate from his
Reform Party bid in 2000, representatives of “immigration reform”
organizations, a couple of talk-radio personalities, and several Republican
Party activists (signaling the advent of immigration as the next big issue for
the party’s right wing). On the auditorium floor, hardcore white nationalists
mixed easily, distributing literature and engaging potential recruits,
explicitly identifying nation with race.

California Coalition for Immigration Reform spokeswoman Barbara Coe told the
assembly that undocumented workers were “illegal barbarians who are cutting off
heads and appendages of blind, white, disabled gringos.” Coe believes a widely
held demographic conspiracy theory called the “Reconquista,” a supposedly
covert plan by Mexico to take back the lands of the Southwest. In 1994, the Los
Angeles Times credited Coe with providing the organizational muscle behind a
statewide anti-immigrant referendum known as Proposition 187. That measure,
later found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, denied social and
medical services to undocumented workers and their children. Outside the hall,
along Desert Inn Road, a billboard sign read “Stop Immigration, Join the
National Alliance,” an imprecation to enlist in an avowedly national socialist
sect known best for producing The Turner Diaries, the race-war terror novel
carried by Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

For this movement, the most important figure in mainstream trappings is
Representative Tom Tancredo, a Republican from Colorado’s 6th District, who
delivered the keynote speech to great applause. The chief of a congressional
immigration-reform caucus that he organized, Tancredo is a ubiquitous presence
at such rallies and meetings. For him, Proposition 187 was the “primal scream
of the people of California,” which he described as being under “political,
economic, and cultural siege.” Tancredo trades on his role as a Capitol Hill
insider to enhance his standing in a far-flung movement. And in Congress his
reputation far exceeds his backbencher status, precisely because of his
standing among angry Middle Americans. In Las Vegas, Tancredo was alternately
humble and proud, comic and serious. He distanced himself from President Bush
with a quip about the Minutemen’s border watch the previous April. “The same
day the president was calling them vigilantes, I was in Arizona calling them
heroes,” he gloated.

As evidenced by events in Las Vegas, a single -- but not seamless -- web
connects ideological white supremacists, armed border vigilantes, nativist
think tanks, political action committees, and Republican Party officeholders in
an anti-immigrant movement of growing significance. Formal policy deliberations
may include debates on the fiscal costs of providing social services to
undocumented workers, the supposed downward pressure immigrant labor exerts on
the marketplace, the net costs and benefits of immigration, and the
national-security problems evinced by holes in our borders. But at gatherings
like these, the raw issues are race and national identity.

Differences between legal and illegal immigrants fade into a generalized belief
that a brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking tidal wave is about to swamp the
white-skinned population of the United States. The attempt to stop undocumented
workers at the borders morphs into a campaign to end immigration altogether, to
save our supposedly white nation from demographic ruin. As Tancredo told
interviewer John Hawkins, “[If] we don’t control immigration, legal and
illegal, we will eventually reach the point where it won’t be what kind of a
nation we are, balkanized or united; we will have to face the fact that we are
no longer a nation at all … .”

* * *

Tancredo epitomizes an ominous overlap between seemingly respectable Republican
anti-immigration activists and the white nationalist movement. His own route to
anti-immigrant politics began in a Denver suburb, where he taught junior high
school. He was elected to the Colorado statehouse in 1976 and re-elected in
1978, earning a reputation for cutting taxes and social services. Tancredo also
called for the dissolution of the cabinet-level Education Department. However,
in 1981, President Reagan named Tancredo a regional director in that
department. He now touts his record of reducing his staff from 220 to 60.

In 1985, he used his office to distribute to Christian educators in his
six-state region a speech by a onetime colleague that called for a “truly
Christian educational system” and lamented “godlessness” in a country founded
as a “Christian nation.” When a California resident sent Tancredo a postcard at
the Education Department objecting to the material, the Californian received a
personally derogatory letter from a Treasury Department employee -- who
apparently monitored activity across departments he considered
“anti-Christian.” A subsequent investigation by Representative Pat Schroeder
resulted in the Treasury official’s dismissal and an apology from the Education
Department’s public-affairs office. Nevertheless, Tancredo kept his post and was
reappointed by President George Bush Senior in 1989, according to newspaper
accounts at the time.

After Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, Tancredo moved over to a regional policy
center, financed by the Coors family, known as the Independence Institute,
where he served as executive director until 1998. During the Clinton years,
both the militias and the anti-immigrant movement bubbled into public view, and
Tancredo associated himself with both. While he disavowed any formal
relationship to militias, he was one of several speakers at a 1994 meeting
called by the far-right, Colorado-based Guardians of American Liberty.

When he ran for Congress in 1998, Tancredo took $500 from the Gun Owners of
America Political Victory Fund, a group prominent in the militia movement. Gun
Owners’ boss Larry Pratt had given a high-visibility 1992 speech to Aryan
Nations figures and other white supremacists at a meeting regarded as the
movement’s birthplace. The speech to the Aryans became so controversial that
Pat Buchanan asked Pratt to step down as a co-chair of the former’s 1996
Republican Party campaign. After the 1999 student shootings and deaths at
Columbine High School -- just blocks from Tancredo’s home -- his public ardor
for gun rights stilled. (Nevertheless, he accepted $12,000 from the National
Rifle Association between 1999 and 2003.)

Tancredo’s immigration caucus has now grown to 91 members, and it promotes
legislation to reduce legal immigration, plug the borders, and, in its own
words, “address the widespread problem of voting by illegal aliens.” It also
seeks to pass legislation denying citizenship to children born in the United
States if their parents are undocumented residents. This goal is explicitly
contradicted by the Constitution, which declares that any person born in the
United States is a citizen.

A similar political action committee and lobby called Team America holds
periodic conferences featuring the major names of the anti-immigrant movement.
Bay Buchanan serves as executive director, and the outfit bears the markings of
Pat Buchanan’s views. In his most recent book, The Death of the West: How Dying
Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization,
Buchanan makes an explicitly racial and religious argument, writing that
falling “European” birthrates and rising immigration from Africa, Asia, and
Latin America spell doom for America and the West; whether legal or illegal,
nonwhite immigrants, as they reproduce, endanger white America.

Peter Brimelow, a former editor at Forbes magazine, echoes Buchanan’s
contentions. “Suppose I had proposed more immigrants who look like me,”
Brimelow wrote in his book Alien Nation. “So what? As late as 1950, somewhere
up to nine out of ten Americans looked like me. That is, they were of European
stock … . In those days, they had another name for this thing dismissed so
contemptuously as ‘the racial hegemony of white Americans. They called it
‘America.’” These two writers provide an intellectualized rationale for the
raw, crudely white-supremacist view that America is -- or once was and should
now be -- a white and Christian nation.

* * *

After the 1965 immigration act removed barriers based on national origin and
ended the formulas discriminating in favor of immigrants from Western European
countries, the first protests were lodged by the white-sheet and brown-shirt
crowds. David Duke’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan protested Cuban refugees
housed in Arkansas, and Duke staged his own Minutemen-like “border patrol” in
California in 1977. In Galveston, Texas, a court order finally stopped Klansmen
from burning the boats of newly arrived Vietnamese fishermen. During the same
period, Aryan Nations produced a three-color propaganda map showing an
immigrant invasion from Mexico (a version of which is still distributed). The
term “mud flood” entered the racist lexicon. White-power skinheads attacked
immigrants as part of their general war on people of color. One group beat an
Ethiopian student to death in Portland in 1988; a duo murdered a Vietnamese
teenager in Houston; and, in 1997, a lone-wolf skinhead shot to death a West
African at a Denver bus stop.

At this end of the spectrum anti-Semitic conspiracy theories hold sway, and the
battle against immigrants is linked to a campaign against Jewish control.
Cadres from national socialist groups participated in the Minutemen border
watch in Arizona in April 2004. At a recent Save Our State rally in California,
they unfurled both the Confederate flag and one with a swastika while picketing
a day-labor site. All of these episodes portend violence, and in Tennessee a
Klansman pleaded guilty in August to making and selling pipe bombs with
immigrants as the target.

An emblematic example of how the unsavory pieces of this movement intersect is
the career of Wayne Charles Lutton, who holds a doctorate from Southern
Illinois University Carbondale. In the early 1980s, he wrote book reviews for
National Review, penned articles on AIDS for Christian-right publications, and
won recognition as an expert on population and immigration. At the same time,
writing as Charles Lutton, he got involved with the Institute for Historical
Review, a pseudo-scholarly group of Holocaust-deniers. Lutton wrote for its
journal in the 1980s and ’90s, mostly about military strategy, and joined the
institute’s advisory board in 1985. Today Lutton serves as a trustee of the New
Century Foundation, the corporate shell holding a think tank known as American
Renaissance, an advocate of both scientific racism and white nationalism, and
he speaks frequently at its conferences.

Lutton’s résumé as a highly educated flat-earther would be of little consequence
here except that he also occupies this seat at one of the most significant
anti-immigrant think tanks. He edits its journal, The Social Contract, and
co-authored The Immigration Invasion, a 190-page paperback written in 1994.
Onetime Democratic presidential aspirant Eugene McCarthy, surprisingly, wrote a
two-page foreword for the book (“I recommend study of the immigration issue and
of this thoughtful book to all Americans.”). The book’s circulation has been so
widespread -- due in large measure to the financial power of Lutton’s co-author
and boss at the Social Contract Press, John Tanton -- that it is now part of
the growing movement’s wallpaper.

It was Tanton who founded the anti-immigration movement’s most powerful
institution, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). A retired
ophthalmologist once active on environmental issues, his interest in
immigration was marked in the beginning by an explicitly racial argument. “To
govern is to populate,” Tanton wrote in 1986. “Will the present majority
peaceably hand over its political power to a group that is simply more fertile?
… As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they
simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?”

Tanton founded FAIR in 1979. Between 1982 and 1994, it received more than $1.2
million from the Pioneer Fund. A little-known foundation created in 1937, the
Pioneer Fund likes to benignly describe its origins in “the Darwinian-Galtonian
evolutionary tradition, and the eugenics movement.” In the late 1930s, though,
it frankly admired Hitler. Today, it still bankrolls groups such as the
aforementioned American Renaissance and the American Immigration Control
Foundation (AICF) in Virginia. As fair has attempted to develop a more
mainstream persona, it has dropped the Pioneer Fund as a funding source. FAIR’s
executive director, Dan Stein, has repeatedly denied that any racial animus
motivates its activities. But the federation has kept Tanton on its corporate
board of directors.

In addition, FAIR’s political action committee, the U.S. Immigration Reform PAC,
routinely receives significant contributions from Tanton and his wife. FAIR’s
PAC has contributed more than a quarter-million dollars for and against
candidates since 1999. In 2000, it spent more than $30,000 against Republican
Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan, an Arab American, who lost that general
election. Not surprisingly, it has also given Representative Tancredo $15,000
over the years, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Buried in
those documents is a disclosure that the PAC had Peter Gemma on its payroll
doing clerical work. Gemma is a denizen of Holocaust-denial meetings and other
hardcore anti-Semitic venues, according to Devin Burghart, the author of
numerous reports on anti-immigrant groups for the Center for New Community in
Chicago. Gemma apparently did not make any of the money decisions at FAIR’s
PAC, but his presence is another indicator of the shark-infested waters that
politicians like Tancredo swim in.

While FAIR has the biggest footprint on Capitol Hill, the AICF possesses the
largest list of donors among the think tanks that provide literature and ideas
to local groups. It has also received $180,000 in grants from the Pioneer Fund.
But its main source of funds is an immense donor base: more than 400,000 names
of contributors who give $5 or more, according to documents provided by the
Center for New Community. The donor list legally belongs to American
Immigration Control Foundation NC, one of three corporations that make up this
particular mini-empire.

Notably, the AICF is heavily interlaced with the Council of Conservative
Citizens. The lineal descendant of the ’60s-era white Citizens Councils, the
Council of Conservative Citizens revived itself in the ’90s with campaigns for
the Confederate flag and against immigration. It stays away from explicit
anti-Semitism and describes itself as a “white separatist” group rather than
“white nationalist.” This distinction is without a difference -- particularly
given the arguments its leadership have made for a genetically determined
notion of American nationalism. Trent Lott was forced to disassociate himself
from the council once his ties to the group became public.

The Council of Conservative Citizens is heavily linked with several
anti-immigrant groups, including the AICF. One AICF board member, Brent Nelson,
also sits as director of the council’s foundation. President of the AICF’s board
from 1993–95, the now-deceased Sam Francis edited the council’s tabloid until
this year and otherwise served as its commanding philosopher-general. And the
aforementioned Wayne Lutton, editor of Social Contract and occupant of
Holocaust-denial circles, serves on the Council of Conservative Citizens’
editorial advisory board.

Although not cut from a single party-line cookie cutter, each of these
personalities connects other anti-immigrant groups to the Council of
Conservative Citizens. And on significant occasions these links extend into the
electoral process and policy making. Consider Arizona’s Proposition 200 and
Virginia Abernethy.

Dr. Virginia Deane Abernethy, a retired professor from Vanderbilt University’s
School of Medicine and author of several books on population and environment,
sits on the board of two organizations with immigration concerns. She is yet
another highly educated professional serving on the Council of Conservative
Citizens editorial advisory board and a frequent featured speaker at the
council’s meetings.

Proposition 200 requires proof of citizenship when registering to vote or when
signing up for state welfare benefits. It passed with 56 percent of the vote in
the Arizona Legislature. More tightly written than California’s Proposition 187,
the Arizona referendum has survived court challenges to date and is likely to
inspire similar statewide initiatives. Brought to the ballot by an organization
known as Protect Arizona Now, campaign-finance report forms show that it
received in-kind contributions totaling $600,000 from the Federation for
American Immigration Reform -- which essentially underwrote the petition’s
signature-gathering process. But when the Protect Arizona Now committee
selected a chair for its national advisory board, it did not pick someone from
FAIR. Instead, it chose Abernethy, according to the Center for New Community,
which issued a special report on her selection. “With charges of racism already
swirling around I-200 … [Protect Arizona Now] has taken the surprising step of
choosing a leading figure in the white supremacist movement,” the center wrote.

When questioned about her views, Abernethy told The Arizona Republic that she
was a “white separatist,” a term used by white nationalists when they want to
avoid the ugly implications of the supremacist label. She added, “We’re saying
that each ethnic group is often happier with its own kind.” What did Protect
Arizona Now’s founder say when asked by the paper? That Abernethy is
“considered the grande dame of the anti-immigration movement.”

In response to the controversy, FAIR issued a press release that read, “FAIR,
and everyone fair represents, categorically denies and repudiates Abernethy’s
repulsive separatist views.” The repudiation did not extend to FAIR’s own
cooperation with white nationalists, however, which goes far beyond acceptance
of Pioneer Fund monies.

* * *

Public acknowledgment of the connection between white nationalism and the
anti-immigrant movement threatens to undermine the legislative strength of FAIR
and Representative Tancredo’s congressional caucus. Both are doing their best to
dodge this bullet. “People who say it’s racist to want secure borders are
insulting the intelligence of the American people … ,” Tancredo wrote in a May
1 Los Angeles Times op-ed. By his lights, the combined impact of Proposition
200 and the Minutemen has energized his movement.

Initiatives modeled on Arizona’s Proposition 200 are already under way in
Washington state, Colorado, and California, and are under consideration
elsewhere. The major PACs will decide early next year whom to support in the
2006 congressional races, and they won’t hesitate to back primary candidates
against Republicans they regard as too soft on border issues.
Immigration-related matters -- from driver’s licenses to social services to
public education -- will be under consideration in virtually every state
legislature in the country next year, and the initiative has been seized by
nativists, xenophobes, and white nationalists.

After a congressional seat from California’s District 48 opened up for a special
election, one of the Minutemen’s founders, Jim Gilchrest, ran as a candidate of
the marginal American Independent Party in an all-party primary on October 4.
Gilchrest received 14.4 percent of the vote, more than the Democratic Party
candidate, and enough to come in third. The Orange County Register counted
“illegal immigration” as the issue that forced a runoff election.

Tancredo could well run in the 2008 presidential primaries. He has not formally
declared his candidacy, but has said that he would run if no other candidate
emerged to carry his “immigration reform” banner. He visited New Hampshire and
Iowa. In that first caucus state, he held three house party fund-raisers in
July sponsored by local Christian Coalition activists. Tancredo knows this
constituency well, dating back to his days as a Colorado state legislator, and
he has also spoken twice in Georgia at the Christian Coalition’s annual
conventions. His trip to Iowa was tightly managed by Bay Buchanan, and he seems
to be following the path left by Bay’s brother Pat in 1992 and ’96.

Things have changed in 10 years, however. Today the thin white nationalist trail
around the edges of the Republican mountain is a major highway, one in which
mainstream travelers mingle with bandits.

Leonard Zeskind is completing a book on the white nationalist movement for
Farrar, Straus & Giroux. He was a MacArthur Fellow in 1998 and a Petra Fellow
in 1992.

Copyright © 2005 by The American Prospect, Inc. Preferred Citation: Leonard
Zeskind, "The New Nativism", The American Prospect Online, . This article may
not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without
prior written permission from the author. Direct questions about permissions to

You can find a record of our prior work against this anti immigrant offensive at


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Unknown said...

Thank GOD there are real patriots calling for not only an END to the INVASION, but elected representatives actually aware of the damage this INVASION does to our country. Thanks also for the nationalist, so-called racist groups that are rapidly coming together to preserve what little we have left of our own country and the Constitution that DEMANDS that the feral government protect the several states from invasion. May the wetback have mercy on your gringo butt for your treasonous attitudes, believe me, they have no respect for you, or your attitudes. America will be able to help NO ONE when it's been destroyed by another fifty million of these invaders. I hope you don't plan on Social Security to protect YOU when your mutual funds are broke. This refusal to engage in critical thinking by the open border immigration lobby/apologists will break our nation, morally, financially and socially, America has NEVER been a receptacle for the refuse of humanity. We will in no way tolerate it NOW. So, get used to it, it's gonna STOP.

Jana said...

I don’t necessarily agree with this article. I think it is somewhat shallow and narrow-minded. We are all from different nationalities brought together into America. If we could come up with a proper reform I believe immigration would be healthy. I don’t agree when it says, falling “European” birthrates and rising immigration from Africa, Asia, and Latin America spell doom for America and the West; whether legal or illegal, nonwhite immigrants, as they reproduce, endanger white America” (Zeskind, 2005). I see this as very racist and I believe that’s why many people don’t agree with immigration.
People from other countries may ask, "If we give you permission to visit our country, why don't you give us permission to visit the U.S.?" (Stoll, 2009, p.2) Other European countries seem to be more accepting of diversity. The United States is strong in its quest for nationalism; we want everybody who comes here to do it the "right way" and conform to our beliefs and values. We have created our own form of nationalism and we expect those who come here to follow it. We, as Americans have created what we call the "American Dream." We seem to believe that if you follow this dream and strive to achieve it you are conforming to the idea of nationalism that the United States portrays and hopes for.
Following the side against immigration, we can see that "a more substantive effort has focused on excluding immigrants from participation in various facets of American civic life in general and the welfare state in particular" (Schneider, 2000, p.1). Many people seem to fear immigration because those immigrating may not conform to the American values which can cause conflict. Another problem with immigration is that "The American family is increasingly bearing the costs of traffic congestion, urban sprawl, environmental degradation, increased crime, overburdened health care, overwhelmed public schools, and debt-ridden state and municipal governments" (Federation for American Immigration Reform[FAIR], p.4). Immigration is skewing the "American Dream" which in turn skews nationalism.
Many people seem to fear that allowing immigrants into the United States will change our idea of nationalism. Studies show that, "recent immigrants and other vulnerable groups are portrayed as different and become the locus of all the present ills" (Aziz, Berlet, 2002). Immigrants dress different, they speak different languages, and they are potentially a threat to our perfect "American Dream." We seem to worry that they will bring too much diversity into our nation and change it in a negative way and we often shun immigrants because of this.

Aziz, N., Berlet, C. (2002). Nationalism. Defending Immigrant Rights: An Activist Resource Kit. Retrieved from

Federation for American Immigration Reform. Am Immigration Reform Agenda for the 111th Congress. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Schneider, D. (2000). Symbolic Citizenship, Nationalism and the Distant State: The United States Congress in the 1996 Debate on Immigration Reform. Citizenship Studies, 4(3). Retrieved from

Stoll, D. (2009). Which American Dream Do You Mean? Society, 46(5). Retrieved from

Zeskind, L. (2005). Anti Immigration and White Nationalism. Antiracismdsa. Retrieved from