Proving what Hannah Arendt said about the banality of evil, here's a look at a whining hatemonger who hates the idea of "those people." Judge for yourself whether he's racist or not. From the LA Times, 7/15/01:
Thanks to an Obsession with Immigration, Glenn Spencer has Ended up on a List of Hate Groups. Is His a Courageous Voice in the Wilderness—or the Whine of a Hatemonger?
BY PATRICK J. MCDONNELL
On a cloudless morning in Westwood, Glenn Spencer is talking about treachery. The new leaders of the United States and Mexico are poised to meet amid a feel-good public relations buildup that has enraged Spencer, self-styled crusader against what he calls Mexico's reconquista of California and the Southwest. News reports breezily convey the prospect of relaxed borders, a new amnesty for illegal immigrants and expanded free trade. It is no less than treason to Spencer, a 63-year-old former computer consultant from the San Fernando Valley, now a brash evangelist in a holy war of his own design.
He has called his brothers and sisters to Westwood to rally in protest. "Stand up for America or kiss it goodbye," he warned them in an insistent e-mail dispatched to thousands of "loyal Americans" nationwide, urging them to mobilize here. "This is your last chance, and the media will be there!!!"
Alas, no more than 60 make it to Wilshire Boulevard today. Some hoist Old Glory and placards proclaiming "Close the Border" or "No Deal With Narco State." A cadre of mostly young men and women denounce Spencer's legions as Nazis and fascists. Worse, the only broadcast medium present is Spanish-language television, which inevitably will portray Spencer as a Latinophobic demon. It is hard to shake the impression of an older generation tilting at windmills only a few years after standing triumphant. Once, Spencer and his allies who yearn to shut the country's doors appeared to have tapped into a political and social lodestone. With the backing of then-Gov. Pete Wilson, they championed the passage of Proposition 187, a landmark California ballot initiative that became a nasty referendum on the state's demographic transformation. The message of "restrictionists" such as Spencer was unambiguous: The "invasion" of poor Mexicans and Central Americans was costing Americans jobs, dragging down public schools, despoiling the environment, spreading disease and exacerbating sundry other social problems.
Emboldened, Spencer transformed his Sherman Oaks basement into a full-time, high-tech command post to spread the anti-immigration gospel. He used the Internet and a privately financed radio show to circulate ominous warnings about Mexico's "demographic war" against the United States. He proudly personified the angry white man of the shut-the-border crowd. Critics denounced his message as racist and delusional. Spencer paid them no mind. He foresaw millions of converts—only to see his temple founder.
The recession ended, the economy boomed anew, and with that the anti-immigration engine backfired; it had become too harsh for its own good and had lost its most potent fuel: high unemployment. Today, lawmakers and social scientists regularly celebrate the economic vitality and cultural verve that immigrants have brought to places such as New York City, Silicon Valley and Southern California. Now, Glenn Spencer seeks out new converts in states thousands of miles away, places where resentment against immigrants is only starting to build.
It is easy to dismiss Spencer as a purveyor of hate on the loony fringes of the immigration-control movement, a contrarian voice rejecting the tide of demographic inevitability so evident in the new census. Yet Spencer can also be seen as a man who gives voice to a crude but deeply felt discontent. He is the next-door neighbor who has gradually rebelled against the unsettling sense of change coming too fast. To his sympathizers, not all of them white, Spencer is the man courageous enough to breach one of L.A.'s biggest taboos: He identifies and articulates the collateral damage from mass immigration that has jolted established communities—and to hell with the high-minded, supposed benefits of immigration. Their unease is captured in one phrase: It's like a foreign country.
"It's not the state I was raised in anymore," says Kevin Knox, 51, a third-generation Californian and substitute teacher who has come to the Westwood rally.
The rise and stall of Glenn Spencer is a peculiarly California saga of a suburban guy who becomes obsessed and consumed by an issue—and ends up on a list of hate groups. It illustrates how harsh voices can emerge when the inevitable anxiety associated with dramatic demographic change is largely ignored by policymakers and the news media, who are inclined to dismiss it as racist. "When we don't allow for the moderately disgruntled," warns Gregory Rodriguez, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public-policy institute in Washington, D.C., "it makes the marginally angry more powerful."
The list of grievances is all too familiar. Hand-made signs declare, "Illegal Aliens Are Criminals—Not Immigrants" and "Peaceful Solutions Through Deportation." Residents complain that hundreds of unkempt day laborers gather along Horse Block Road, creating a nuisance and posing a menace as they solicit jobs from passing motorists. "It's about time my daughter can go back to the Laundromat without having to be solicited for sex," says a distraught Margaret Bianculli-Dyber, a public-school teacher, drawing cheers from the assembled. "It's about time that women, people, mothers can come through our community without worrying about being hit by drunk drivers who are illegal aliens." To resounding applause, she adds: "We are not racists! We are not bigots!"
This isn't another Southern California burg grappling with curbside employment. This is Farmingville, Long Island, a blue-collar town 60 miles east of Manhattan that is more than 90% white.
Spencer has flown across the country to a town hall meeting at a nearby VFW post to commiserate with the citizenry. The day before, he'd witnessed the offending spectacle: day laborers, organized by Catholic activists, standing defiantly on Horse Block Road toting signs stating their right to be here. "I was stunned," Spencer said on his radio show, broadcast the same week from the studios of a New York City station. "Can you imagine going down to Mexico, standing on the corners of Mexico City with an American flag, with banners saying, 'We're here and not leaving?' You would last three seconds."
Spencer has taken his campaign against la reconquista not merely to the exurbs of New York but to the deep South, the Midwest, the mountain states and the Pacific Northwest. He and his adherents have burned Mexican flags in Washington, D.C., and Alabama. His radio show, "American Patrol," funded from donations and sales of videos chronicling the immigration threat, has aired in more than a dozen cities, from Seattle to Little Rock, New York to Kansas City, where communities are navigating California-like demographic currents. In Los Angeles, the program ran Sunday afternoons on KRLA 870 AM, formerly KIEV. Spencer says broadcasts nationwide will resume in October.
"We are faced, as I've said for 10 years now, with the greatest threat to the security of the United States in our history," he tells listeners. "We're being invaded, ladies and gentlemen. We're making it easier and easier for people from the entire planet to come here, occupy and colonize us and take away our nation."
In the Long Island VFW post, before 200 angry residents, many waving U.S. flags and balloons of red, white and blue, Spencer proclaims: "You are in the biggest fight you will have to face. The power elite have decided we have to be folded into the world village."
Like a prophet from the Land of Doom, he bestows his stock sermon about California, a homily of paradise lost.
"California," responds Bianculli-Dyber, president of the Long Island group, "represents our failure, and our country's failure, and our citizens' failure to support the citizens who were crying out a long time ago and warning us about it."
Dan Morris, whose immigration-control group in northwest Arkansas earlier invited Spencer to speak to residents disturbed about an influx of poultry workers, came away similarly inspired. "He brings a crystal ball into our community and says: 'You're at the stage where we were 15 years ago.' "
Glenn Spencer's dystopian lens, his view of the golden state as a corrupted place in the death grip of Mexican revanchism, is shaped by his heritage. He is a product of Los Angeles—of Hollywood, actually, the old Hollywood of neat suburban homes and palm-lined boulevards that mirrored the orderly vision of the country transmitted from the entertainment capital. He attended Hollywood High School, where he met his wife, to whom he remains married 42 years later. The couple's two grown daughters, public-school educated and UCLA graduates, still live in the area—both married to Jewish men, Spencer points out. His wife does not completely approve of his obsession, into which Spencer has plowed substantial amounts of his savings. "She would wish I would do something else, and maybe I will."
He graduated from Cal State Northridge. He drives a 1994 Dodge wagon and does not appear to live extravagantly. His first real job was as an aerospace worker.
Like so many L.A. natives, Spencer comes from Midwestern stock, a family of Missouri vaudevillians who made their way west in the 1930s. His uncle, Tim Spencer, was an original member of the Sons of the Pioneers, the groundbreaking western group whose lineup included a lanky Ohioan cowboy wannabe named Leonard Slye, later known as Roy Rogers. The many credits of Glenn Spencer Sr., a songwriter, include co-writing the theme for "Gunsmoke," the popular TV western series. Yet Spencer says he never liked show business—especially the "hangers-on" he would see around the house. He dismisses any comparison between his ancestors and today's new Californians.
"These weren't immigrants, they were settlers," Spencer says, hunting around his cluttered desk for a family tree compiled by a cousin. "I think the last so-called immigrant who came in was 1811."
The point is central to Spencer's world view. He acknowledges that immigration has helped the nation "avoid stagnation," but says the process has not been sufficiently selective. He regularly finds himself locked in debates, real and virtual, with antagonists who suggest he and his cronies all go back to Europe.
"You are forgetting the fact that all you people are descendants from immigrants!" complained a message from a man identifying himself as Latino, one of about 200 e-mails that Spencer receives daily, some supportive, others threatening. "Our people have inhabited these lands way before your tourist C. Columbus got lost in the Atlantic! When you say that these 'illegal immigrants' don't have the right to come to these lands in search of a better life, think about how contradicted that is."
Spencer met the challenge. He shot back that his forefathers "civilized and built America into what it is today. You want to move in [and] take over what we built. We're not going to allow it . . . Bank robbers are in search of a better life. Mexicans should stay in Mexico and pursue the 'Mexican Dream.' "
No single moment turns a man from citizen to advocate. But Spencer points to the drama of the 1992 riots that broke out in the wake of jury verdicts dismissing most charges against the LAPD officers who beat Rodney King. Television captured widespread looting, much of it by Latinos who, on the face of it, had no direct political stake in the King trial. Spencer recalls an epiphany of sorts as he watched the helicopter images of mostly Latino faces plundering the familiar Hollywood Sears. "I was stunned and thought, 'Oh, my God, there are so many of them and they are so out of control.' "
Spencer was back in a rapidly changing Los Angeles, working as a computer consultant after spending several years as an energy executive combing the West for geothermal reserves from his private plane. He, like many Southern California residents, was only now becoming aware of the tectonic impact of massive immigration, both legal and illegal. He went to the library and learned of the numbers crossing the border illegally—several thousand arrests a night in San Diego, wave after wave. He discussed gang crime with his brother, Chet, a former LAPD police commander in the Valley. (Another brother is a Presbyterian pastor. Spencer himself is not a churchgoer, despite years of Bible school and Christian camps.)
He began firing off angry letters to the editor (a passion that continues), and found that others shared his outrage. Yet he says he felt no one in power paid heed.
It was a time of deep despair in Southern California, embodied in the two Rs: riot and recession. Many longtime residents were just taking stock of the demographic revolution. Spencer co-founded a neighborhood group, Valley Citizens Together, which, as interest expanded, was renamed Voice of Citizens Together. He used his desktop publishing skills to launch a provocative newsletter, which he initially distributed to homes while walking his dog. The publication painted an almost pornographic portrait of a community reeling under the multiple afflictions of disease, violence, poverty, illiteracy, white flight—all explicitly linked to illegal immigrants. Spencer's frantic tone touched a chord in the middle-class suburbs of Los Angeles baffled by the social upheaval all around. When journalists began showing up at meetings, Spencer took pains to point out that his co-religionists were not racists or rubes. "We don't want to go back to Ozzie and Harriet," he told one reporter.
At monthly meetings in a Valley school auditorium, Spencer often suggested to his virtually all-white audiences that the changes they feared were rooted in the ideology and iconography of the 1960s Chicano movement, which had largely faded from the political scene. His technique was that of the 19th century explorer exposing the customs of a strange and pernicious civilization. On one occasion, viewers focused transfixed on the video images of militants in sunglasses and brown berets vowing to reclaim Aztlan—the mystical northern homeland of the Aztecs that some activists argue (with little historical proof) was originally in today's U.S. Southwest. For the audience, it was a terrifying picture of an aggrieved people eager to recolonize a lost homeland.
"The more I got into this, I couldn't let it go," Spencer says. "I started seeing things, and I started saying: 'What on earth is going on here?' "
Out of this disgruntlement arose the Save Our State movement, composed of many groups like Spencer's. Gov. Wilson, needing a lift in his sagging 1994 reelection campaign, jumped on the bandwagon. The combustible combination of an angry electorate, a recession and a governor fueling ill will detonated into Proposition 187, which sought to expedite the deportation of illegal immigrants—expelling them from public schools and denying them health and social services, among other measures. Spencer's group gathered 40,000 signatures to help put the proposal on the ballot. He was now a public figure—a role he acknowledges liking.
Californians approved Proposition 187 in landslide fashion; only Latinos and Jews voted "no" in decisive majorities. Many critics dismissed the episode as racist, the latest incarnation of an historic "nativism" that has persisted as a kind of alter ego to the nation's centuries-long embrace of immigrants. But the reality was more nuanced. Most supporters enthusiastically endorsed the notion of "sending a message" to Washington, but were not as hard-line as Spencer and other high-profile backers.
The great victory was fleeting, ultimately a Pyrrhic triumph. More enduring was the dramatic "backlash against the backlash"—the political empowerment of Latinos mobilized by Proposition 187. Amid a recovering economy, immigrants signed up for citizenship in unprecedented numbers. Wilson was replaced by a moderate Democrat, Gray Davis, who wooed Latino voters and signed off on a court agreement to kill Proposition 187. It was a "deal," Spencer contends, hatched in concert with then-Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, whose visit to the state was labeled by Spencer as a "victory parade through a conquered California."
Soon, immigrant-bashing was political suicide, both in California and nationally. "In the near future, people will look at California and Mexico as one magnificent region," gushed Davis.
Art Torres, chairman of the California Democratic Party, triumphantly provided a sound bite that lives in infamy in the Spencer archives. "Remember," Torres told a largely Latino audience at UC Riverside, "187 is the last gasp of white America in California."
Today the nation is in the midst of a wave of immigration that is coursing through its fourth decade, with no end in sight. More than 1 million immigrants—both legal and illegal—are believed to settle permanently in the United States each year. The figure is close to historical highs from the early 20th century, before Congress pulled up the welcome mat. Immigrants now account for one in four Californians—about the same as a century ago—and are the driving force in population growth here. Census 2000 data suggests that the illegal immigrant population has grown much larger than previously thought, despite the extraordinary buildup of forces along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Yet there is hardly any public debate today in Congress about limiting immigration levels. As the economy rebounded, the "restrictionist" camp's arguments have been lost in the ether. "Where do they turn to? There's no room for them to move," says Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant group in Washington, D.C. "They're reduced to praying for a severe recession, and hoping that will put wind in their sails."
Glenn Spencer greets a visitor to his hillside Sherman Oaks home dressed casually—shorts, a cotton top, black socks and suede walking shoes. He appears every inch the prototypical, balding, heavyset retiree puttering about with his electric trains or some other inoffensive hobby. His affable demeanor is a marked departure from his pugnacious public posture and often-venomous pen. But Spencer's basement office, with an expansive view to the Valley below, bristles with purpose—"GlennLand," his paid assistant calls the digitized compound. Four computer terminals stand mobilized for action, along with an equal number of sophisticated video recording devices and television monitors, all programmed to news channels. There are two audio mixers, three tape decks, five telephone lines, cable and satellite TV hookups, special antennae to pick up broadcasts—and an emergency backup generator.
This is Spencer's command center, his bunker against the onslaught of the politically correct, the diversity-pushers and the globalists. His deep-set eyes wander to the assorted screens like a ship captain's scanning the seas, alert for friend or foe. Eighteen hours a day, he says, he and his assistant monitor pertinent developments from the Internet and news stations nationwide, seeking items to download for use in interviews, his radio show or on his American Patrol Web site, a kind of electronic clipping service with barbed commentaries.
"Arrogant Mexican Rants," was the newsletter headline recounting President Vicente Fox's spirited defense of the plight of immigrants during his visit to California. Spencer organized a busload of protesters against Fox, whom he considers an aggressive proponent of reconquista. The next day, Spencer's Web site featured visuals and audio of a confrontation between Spencer and an irate "Mexican passerby," who declared of Southern California's future: "This is all going to be down and brown."
Crashing Latino-themed conferences in quest of compromising remarks is a Spencer sub-specialty. Like the time he caught Jose Angel Pescador Osuna, Mexico's former consul general in Los Angeles, making an offhand comment during a speech at Southwestern School of Law. "Even though I'm saying this part serious, part joking, I think we are practicing la reconquista in California," Pescador remarked. Spencer says he was thrown out for unauthorized taping. But he made sure the press knew of the quip, which found its way into The New York Times and elsewhere.
The anthology of incriminating audio and video clips, encoded in his laptop to be accessed almost instantaneously, is a Spencer trademark—the core of his circumstantial case of perfidy. Like an exorcist baring his cross, he produces the disembodied voices at rallies and in interviews and rails against a censorious mainstream news media that does not follow his lead. He has taken out more than a dozen full-page ads in area newspapers, including The Times, in an attempt to expose Mexico's supposed aims. The media segment that can't get enough of Spencer is the Spanish-language press, which paints him as a stereotypical Anglo-Saxon intent on subjugating the brown masses. He both relies on and excoriates the press, especially his hometown paper. The Times is "willing to sacrifice the United States on the altar of globalism," Spencer complains.
"Will the newspaper suddenly admit its errors and say that I was right all along?" Spencer queries a Times reporter in an e-mail. "Or will it say things are not that bad and tend to portray me as a 'racist loner sitting in his home office spewing out hate?' "
In Spencer's personal vision of the apocalypse, California and the Southwest are effectively annexed by Mexico, transformed into some kind of dysfunctional socialist colony—"Blade Runner" on welfare, the Red Menace with Mexicans. The bitter territorial losses of the 19th century are avenged through mass immigration and Latinos' comparatively high birthrate.
Does he believe, literally, that debt-plagued and underdeveloped Mexico will one day retake its former lands? "What is conquest?" he demands. "It is control. It is language, it is culture, it is your way of life imposed on others against their will. It is control of territory. It can mean the ability to redistribute the wealth by the police power of taxation. In the extreme, it can mean retribution." This, he says, is "the silent Alamo."
His group's Web site, his radio program and his two videotapes— "Immigration: Threatening the Bonds of Our Union, Parts I and II" (9,000 sold at $19.99 each, a major revenue source)—traffic in lurid depictions of the peril. His is a universe awash with schemes of treachery on an operatic scale. Abetting the plot are assorted "rabid multiculturalists" and "open-borders globalists " from an array of suspect institutions—the Catholic Church, the Democratic Party, multinational corporations, the "liberal press," organized labor and the Ford Foundation, a major funder of Latino rights groups. The Immigration and Naturalization Service, an agency long assailed by civil libertarians, "has been taken over by left-wing radicals." Spencer also says California's growing ranks of prominent Latino lawmakers—especially Antonio Villaraigosa, who lost the L.A. mayor's race—are infiltrators bent on retaking Aztlan. (Spencer has filed suit against both The Times and the Daily News, alleging that The Times improperly pressured the Daily News to kill a Spencer-designed campaign ad that asked of Villaraigosa, "Does Los Angeles Need a Mayor Who Reports to Mexico City?" Representatives of both newspapers deny any illegality or political motivation. An attorney for The Times says the newspaper objected because the proposed ad—which featured a reprint of a Times front page—used copyrighted material and other intellectual property without permission.) If things degenerate further, Spencer hints, a U.S. invasion of Mexico and the establishment of a "protectorate" may be called for.
It is often pointed out that earlier immigrant groups—Irish, Italians, Jews—suffered the kind of disdain that is often directed at today's Mexican arrivals. All are now well-integrated into the nation's fabric. Likewise, there is much evidence suggesting that immigrants from Mexico and their children are also assimilating—learning English, purchasing homes, becoming U.S. citizens, buying into the American dream. But Spencer will have none of it. Mexicans and Central Americans, he says, "are remaining separate by choice. Their culture is maintained, as is their language."
The modern welfare state, he argues resolutely, is a magnet that keeps 'em coming. "Now all a Mexican has to do is have a baby, and she and her boyfriend are set for life. Scavenging for work on street corners, or selling dope to U.S. teenagers, helps supplement free giveaways from the Yankee suckers."
So frenzied is Spencer's rhetoric that it scares off potential allies in the varied constituency of the immigration-control movement. Established organizations such as the Federation for American Immigration maintain a distance from Spencer, though FAIR and Spencer share fundamental policy goals: large-scale deportations, deep cuts in legal immigration, more border guards and barriers and denial of birthright citizenship to the children of undocumented parents. Politicians wary of the radioactive "racist" tag also shun a partisan who once wrote, "The Mexican culture is based on deceit . . . Chicanos and Mexicanos lie as a means of survival. "
This spring, Glenn's Voice of Citizens Together was added to the list of hate groups tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alabama-based nonprofit organization that monitors organized hate. The fact that California had become the first large state to see its non-Latino white population dip below 50% "sent chills up the collective spine of the extreme right," noted the center's magazine. "If the economy goes sour," says the center's Joe Roy, "we can expect more scapegoating violence, especially against immigrants."
Spencer denies any racist motivations, rejects violence and says he has no link to hate groups. "This is not an attack on Americans of Hispanic or Mexican descent, who are some of our finest citizens," he proclaims at the beginning of each radio broadcast. He points out that his group's co-founder is Jewish, despite his reservations about the Jewish establishment's backing of immigration. (Jews, notes Spencer, historically "vote with the 'stranger.' ") The criticism he faces, Spencer contends, is an ideological cudgel to bludgeon debate. "The United States of America," he says, "will be the first great nation to have been defeated out of fear of being called a name: racist."
The Fox-Bush summit in Mexico has come and gone. The Republic still stands. The Mexican government is pushing for a four-part plan that would bestow rights on Mexicans already in the United States, create a guest-worker program with safeguards for participants, increase the number of permanent visas and reduce border violence. It is an ambitious agenda under discussion at high levels in Washington and Mexico City. Some see in President George W. Bush's position an analogy to Richard M. Nixon's before his historic visit to Communist China: A conservative Republican politically enabled to take a bold step to regulate the unremitting flow of back-door immigration. The new administration, openly courting Latino votes, has already moved to ease burdens for illegal immigrants from Central America and elsewhere who are fighting for lawful status.
"Capitulation," responds Spencer to the notion of a U.S.-Mexico deal. This Reagan Republican who followed Pat Buchanan to the Reform Party urged people to vote for Bush, but the talk of a binational accord is prompting second thoughts. "With that," he says of such a deal, "this is Mexico." Reconquista a fait accompli. The upshot: an explosion in welfare use, bond issues, social services—in short, a major redistribution of income, as "loyal Americans" abandon California in ever greater multitudes.
His policy prescription is a draconian dose of tough love: mass deportations linked with a kind of Marshall Plan for Mexico—paid "with pesos, not dollars," and named for the U.S.-subsidized reconstruction of Western Europe following World War II. "I don't care if it costs us a trillion dollars to do it," says Spencer, otherwise wary of globalist expenditures. "It's worth it to save the country."
It is an improbable scenario. Expelling 6 million people—the official (and likely low) estimate of the undocumented population—is an undertaking of a biblical scope, requiring a virtual army to sweep through and occupy inner-city and suburban neighborhoods, rural enclaves and tens of thousands of job sites. The endeavor would leave entire industries without workers and could practically transform parts of California into ghost towns. Nor would influential Latinos and others passively tolerate what would likely be condemned as ethnic cleansing.
"If I had to bet money on it, I would bet that he [Bush] would sell us out," says Terry Anderson, an auto mechanic from South-Central Los Angeles who is among those at the Westwood protest rally. A longtime Spencer ally, Anderson is himself a radio personality, going on the air to stress the damage he says immigration has done to African Americans such as himself. "We've always had Hispanics in the community—it's not about that. It's about how many came. Couldn't speak the language. Pulled down the school system. Put 30 people in a house. Got 15 cars per house. Chickens, goats, corn growing in the front yard, laundry on the front fence." The oft-interviewed Anderson, as media-conscious as Spencer, pauses and makes sure he has a journalist's attention. "That's not my culture," he adds. "Good stuff in print, though."
Glenn Spencer is apprehensive, even gloomy. He is savvy enough to know that bashing a Republican president may push him and his movement farther to the margins of acceptable discourse. A shortage of cash has forced him to cut broadcasts of his radio program. He muses about writing a book, finding a saner way to savor his retirement. "I've got to have a life," he says at the end of a long morning in his high-tech nerve center. "This is very, very stressful. I sit here and see all this stuff coming down."
The dissatisfaction is palpable as the rally in Westwood winds down and the faithful disperse. "I think there's a sense of impending doom," Spencer says, his voice heavy with weary resignation. Soon, he and his assistant gather up the signs and flags and sound equipment and head back to Sherman Oaks, back to the suburban aerie from where he surveys the damage inflicted on a once-familiar homeland, more alien with each passing day.
Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times
I can barely begin to address all the stupidities in Spencer's position. I'll just note a few lowlights:
Today's California isn't the state I was raised in either. I was raised in yesterday's California, since I'm a native also. So the hell what? California doesn't exist for my benefit and it doesn't exist for Spencer's.
I wrote the following letter to the LA Times Magazine, which published it 8/12/01:
Whether Spencer realizes it or not, he certainly is a racist. Just look at the evidence. He doesn't denounce all illegal immigrants—Asians, Canadians, Europeans, et al.—but only Mexicans, in incredibly unflattering terms. When you discriminate against a group of people—the Mexican portion of illegal immigration—based on race, it's racist by definition.
The opposite viewpont
Halbritter: 'Immigration hysteria' is nothing new in America
Posted: June 23, 2006
by: Ray Halbritter / Oneida Indian Nation
Editors' note: This column was published in The Buffalo News on May 21, 2006.
Real" Americans are getting hysterical over immigration, again. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that makes it a crime to pursue the American dream without the proper papers.
"Real" Americans are calling for the mass roundup and deportation of an estimated 11 million people who have entered the United States illegally, although they are short on details, like where these people would be incarcerated while awaiting formal deportation proceedings.
This latest spell of immigration hysteria is nothing new, and it is no coincidence that it comes at a time when persons of Latino or Hispanic origin are reshaping American cultural identity.
In the 120-year history of U.S. efforts to exert control over the flow of immigrants into this country, virtually every such effort has been in response to some panic over race, religion or ideology, and the targets of these initiatives have invariably been those who do not look, worship or think like the so-called "dominant European culture" of this country.
The very first official federal immigration law, passed in 1882, was called the Chinese Exclusion Act; and it barred all immigration from China for 60 years. In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt made a deal with Japan. He would force California schools to integrate Japanese students already living here, and in return Japan would stop its citizens from trying to enter the United States. By 1917, nearly all Asian immigrants were barred from entering the country.
Not satisfied to stop there, in 1921 Congress moved to restrict immigration from southern and eastern Europe by introducing quotas for each country. Eight years later, the government formally reserved 70 percent of all admissions for immigrants from northern and western Europe — that is, the primarily Protestant, light-skinned populations of the British Isles, Germany and Scandinavia. Only 30 percent of all admissions were reserved for people from the "less desirable" areas of southern and eastern Europe, where the population was primarily Catholic or Jewish and darker-skinned.
Listen carefully to the arguments and proposals concerning immigration today, and you will hear that this wave of hysteria is just as racist, bigoted and intolerant as any other in our history. The House bill calls for a 700-mile security fence along the Mexican border, but there is no similar provision for a security fence along the Canadian border. Is it only a coincidence that Canadians look more like "real" Americans than Hispanics do? Of course it isn't. Like the northern and western Europeans of a century ago, Canadians are "desirable" immigrants, while Hispanics are in the same "undesirable" category as the Italians, Jews, Slavs and Russians of the 1920s.
The unpalatable truth is that America's mythical "melting pot" has always been highly compartmentalized and more like "alphabet soup." Just as American Indians were forced onto remote reservations to keep them out of the way, immigrants were forced into segregated neighborhoods — think of every major city's Little Italy, Chinatown and similar enclaves — where their differences would not offend the dominant culture. Today we have English-only initiatives and penalties for people who employ illegal immigrants, policies that are designed to close doors rather than open them. But none of these has stemmed the desire of people from other countries to live here.
The United States, thanks to its wealth, its opportunities, its constitutional freedoms and its shining principle of justice for all, is clearly the promised land for millions of people living in abject poverty under corrupt, repressive or simply ineffectual regimes. The vast majority of immigrants, legal or illegal, don't cross our borders because they aspire to become wards of the government. They come because they dream of a better life for themselves and their children, of opportunities that are denied them at home, of the freedom to work, worship and think the way they want to.
Those self-professed guardians of our borders, the "real" Americans, could learn a lot from the first Americans. American Indians have dealt with "boat people" ever since their initial contact with Europeans. Our ancestors doubtless experienced some qualms about dealing with people who looked different, spoke a different language and worshipped differently. Yet the newcomers were welcomed. Resources were shared. Friendships were forged. Thanksgiving was created.
Panic, intolerance, bigotry and isolationism will not resolve the issues attending the immigration debate. It is time for all sides to step back a pace, take a deep breath and look for solutions that are both reasonable and compassionate. It is time for this country to renew its commitment to the ideals symbolized by the Statue of Liberty, shining her beacon of freedom for all the world to see and inviting, in Emma Lazarus' famous words, "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
All it takes is a willingness to look beyond the things that divide us and bring out the things that unite us. That, after all, is what true leaders do: They bring people together.
Ray Halbritter is nation representative for the Oneida Indian Nation of New York. Halbritter is CEO of the Oneida Nation's various business enterprises, including Four Directions Media, the publisher of Indian Country Today. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School.
A Native view of immigration
Published Nov 22, 2006 12:34 AM
The following talk was given by Mahtowin Munro, a member of the Lakota Nation and co-leader of United American Indians of New England (UAINE), at a Nov. 18 Boston Workers World Party forum entitled "The Struggle for Indigenous sovereignty and immigrant rights."
I am going to be talking about immigration tonight from a North American Native viewpoint. Many of us who are Native to this country have been outraged as our sisters and brothers from Mexico, Central America and South America have come under increasing attack by the right wing.
We are deeply alarmed by the existence of white vigilante groups such as the Minutemen, and by the stated intention of the U.S. government to build a wall separating the U.S. from Mexico.
As Indigenous peoples, we have no borders. We know that our sisters and brothers from Mexico, Central America and South America have always been here and always will be.
The immigrant nation that is the U.S. has a short memory and is in denial of its historical facts. This government is descended from immigrants who came here and took our lands and resources, either by force, coercion or dishonesty, and banned the religions, languages and cultures of the original Indigenous peoples of this continent.
In the various discussions of so-called "illegal immigrants," one historical fact is always overlooked: America's own holocaust directed against African and Native people, carried out by uninvited foreigners who came to these shores and took everything they could.
Surely the deaths of tens of millions of Native and African people at the hands of marauding, manipulative European immigrants during a 400-year span should be worth bearing in mind.
U.S. history brims over with brutal, bloody instances of inhuman European immigrant actions that are far removed from the basic aspirations so often associated with today's immigrants. The undocumented workers today in this country dream of a better life and seek to escape the poverty and repression engendered by U.S. imperialism.
Unlike the earlier immigrants and the perpetual forces they set into motion, I highly doubt that today's immigrants are plotting to seize others' property, kill babies and earn bounties based on body parts brought back from raids.
Consider that, in the late 1630s, the British wiped out nearly every man, woman and child of the powerful Pequot tribe of southern New England in retaliation for conflicts arising out of fur-trade struggles. A few years later, Dutch authorities in charge of the settlement of "New Netherland" on the island of Manhattan carried out nighttime raids against the local Indigenous people, where infants were torn from their mothers' breasts and hacked to pieces in the presence of their parents.
Legislation approved in Massachusetts and elsewhere in New England in the 1700s authorized bounty payments for scalps or heads of Indians, young and old.
As it turns out, the immigrant authorities were just beginning their efforts to obliterate "the savages," as American history chronicles.
Some of the best-known names in American history are dripping with prejudice and arrogance aimed at Native people. Not only did Thomas Jefferson-a holder of hundreds of Black men, women, and children-live a life of ease on his great plantation as a result of that slave labor. He also was convinced that the best solution in dealing with Native peoples was to drive all of us west of the Mississippi.
The war-hero president, Andrew Jackson, was one of the most despicable Indian-haters on record. He made no bones about his racism and championed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forced the Cherokee and other southeastern Native peoples from their homes and caused thousands of them to die on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma.
The 19th century in particular is rife with accounts of the foreign intruders' invasions of Indian country, especially in the Southeast and West, and the carnage that resulted. The December 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee of over 300 unarmed Lakota children, women and men by the U.S. Army is perhaps the best-known of what were countless massacres carried out by the immigrants and their army.
The wholesale abuse of Native peoples continues to this day, and it springs from the same destructive capitalist practices that were brought here by foreigners long ago.
As I listen to some people call other people "illegal" immigrants, I often wonder: How could it possibly be that their ancestors were considered to be "legal" while so many immigrants now are considered "illegal"?
These comparisons between past and present miss a crucial point. So few restrictions existed on immigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries that there was no such thing as "illegal immigration."
For instance, the government excluded less than 1 percent of the 25 million European immigrants who landed at Ellis Island before World War I, and those mostly for health reasons.
We begin with a simple fact: We Native peoples had no immigration policies. When the Europeans began arriving and stealing our land from us and massacring our people, we did not have them take a citizenship test. We did not have them pass through Ellis Island. We did not have quotas for how many could come into the country.
So, when did the U.S. begin to have immigration policies, and what were those policies?
For many years, whiteness was the prerequisite for citizenship. The first naturalization law in the United States, the 1790 Naturalization Act, restricted naturalization to "free white persons" of "good moral character" once they had resided in the country for a specified period of time.
The next significant change in the scope of naturalization law came following the Civil War in 1870 when the law was broadened to allow African Americans, whose ancestors had been forced to immigrate here in slave ships, to become naturalized citizens.
During the 1800s, male Chinese immigrants were excluded from citizenship but not from living in the United States, because their labor was needed by the big railroads. Female Chinese immigration was severely curtailed. Congress in 1882 passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was a virtual ban on further Chinese immigration. The Chinese immigration ban was not repealed until the 1940s.
In the early 1900s, Japanese immigration was limited as well, but the Japanese government continued to give passports to the Territory of Hawaii, where many Japanese resided. (At that time, Hawaii was not yet a U.S. state.) Once in Hawaii, it was easy for Japanese to continue on to settlements on the West Coast, if they so desired.
An 1882 law banned the entry of "lunatics" and infectious disease carriers. After President William McKinley was assassinated by a second-generation immigrant anarchist, Congress enacted in 1901 the Anarchist Exclusion Act to exclude known anarchist agitators. A literacy requirement was added in the Immigration Act of 1917.
During the 1920s, the U.S. Congress established national quotas on immigration. The quotas were based on the number of foreign-born residents of each nationality who were already living in the United States.
In 1924, the Johnson-Reid Immigration Act limited the numbers of southern European immigrants. Italians were considered not "white" enough and an anarchist menace. The numbers of Eastern Europeans were also limited because Jews, who made up a large part of those leaving that area, were not "white" enough and were considered to be a Bolshevik menace.
I should mention that we Native people were "naturalized" and "granted" citizenship by the U.S. government in 1924.
In 1932 President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the State Department essentially shut down immigration during the Great Depression.
In 1952, the McCarran-Walter Act revised the quota system again. This act removed overt racial barriers to citizenship but solidified inequalities. Most of the quota allocation went to immigrants from Ireland, the United Kingdom and Germany who already had relatives in the United States.
This law was also particularly aimed at preventing socialist, communist or other progressive immigrants from entering the country. The anti-"subversive" features of this law are still in force.
During all these years, the entire Western Hemisphere, including Mexico, was exempted from immigration regulations. That changed in 1965 with the Hart-Cellar Act, which abolished the system of national-origin quotas.
A last-minute political compromise introduced, for the very first time, quotas for Mexico and the rest of the Western Hemisphere. This law racialized "illegal aliens." A hierarchy of those deemed worthy and those deemed unworthy of becoming an "American" became increasingly deeply rooted.
Several pieces of legislation signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996 marked a turn towards harsher policies for both legal and "illegal" immigrants. These acts vastly increased the categories for which immigrants, including green card holders, can be deported. As a result, well over 1 million individuals have been deported since 1996.
In short, the notion of "illegal aliens" is a construct, an invention of the racist U.S. ruling class. The dominant powers for centuries codified Indigenous, African, Chinese and other people as essentially not "American."
The revolting use of the word "illegal" as a noun is a linguistic way of dehumanizing people and reducing individuals to their alleged infractions against the law.
I do not have time tonight to discuss the details of the economic and social conditions created by U.S. imperialism and neoliberalism that have forced our sisters and brothers from Mexico and many other countries to come to the U.S.
The United States is the true culprit in this situation through the robbery of the Mexican people, which began with the theft of their land and has continued with economic policies like NAFTA, which have destroyed the economy that sustained thousands of families, forcing them into exile and particularly into emigrating to the U.S.
As an aside, I want to explain what I mean when I say that the U.S. government stole land from the Mexican people, because this is rarely discussed in school or anywhere else. First of all, the land of course belongs rightfully to Indigenous peoples. Later, the various colonial governments claimed territory.
The "Mexican Cession" is a historical name for the region of the present-day southwestern United States that was ceded to the U.S. by Mexico in 1848 under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo following the Mexican-American War.
The cession of this territory from Mexico was a condition for the end of the war, as U.S. troops occupied Mexico City and Mexico risked being completely annexed by the U.S.
The United States also paid the paltry sum of $15 million for the land, which was the same amount it had offered for the land prior to the war. Under great duress, Mexico was forced to accept the offer.
The region of the 1848 "Mexican Cession" includes all of the present-day states of California, Nevada and Utah, as well as portions of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. Note that the United States had already claimed the huge area of Texas in its Texas Annexation of 1845.
So we see that the U.S. literally stole millions of acres of land from the Mexican people, then established arbitrary borders such as the Rio Grande, and now hunts down those who dare to cross those borders.
The U.S. government has now escalated its war against the Mexican people, whether they are in Mexico or in its Diaspora, by approving $2.2 billion to begin construction of what is to be a $6 billion apartheid wall between the two countries.
At the same time, massive raids are being carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security. In cities across the country, ICE is trying to push immigrant workers further underground and scare them away from organizing and fighting for their rights.
Local and state governments, most notably in Pennsylvania and Arizona, have been passing vicious anti-immigrant legislation. I just read on the Internet the other night that the Bush administration and the Justice Department now claim the right to hold any non-U.S. citizen indefinitely, without the right to a trial in a civilian court.
In recent years, we have also seen how attacks against even documented immigrants, particularly Muslims, have been carried out under the guise of "homeland security."
So all in all, there is a calculated attempt to create a thoroughly intimidating and threatening climate for immigrant workers, especially the undocumented.
Further, racists continue to push their "English-only" campaigns and to oppose bilingual education. I feel outraged by these "English-only" campaigns. Is English the Native language of this country? Generations of Native people were beaten for speaking their Indigenous languages and forced to learn English. Instead of English-only, maybe we should be insisting that people speak Mayan or Cherokee or Wampanoag.
Well, things were looking pretty bleak for a while. It had appeared that the capitalist ruling class and its representatives in the U.S. government had the upper hand completely, and that the mass struggle was dormant.
But then came the magnificent immigrant rights demonstrations of last spring. These were led by workers from Mexico and Central America and South America, but they were joined by Caribbean, Asian, African and other allies. This development shook the ruling class. It frightened and deeply worried them. It gave a glimpse, even in the midst of periods of reaction, of the crucial struggles that are on the horizon.
Step by step, day by day, this movement will grow. The government can pass anti-immigrant laws but those laws will be repealed in the streets. It was the earlier heroic struggles of immigrants in the U.S. that led to the historic International Women's Day as well as May Day. Without a doubt, immigrants will make that kind of history again.
Let's ask some basic questions here: Why does the U.S. need immigrant workers? This country depends on immigrants being the most exploited workers, the ones who work in sweatshops and keep the luxury hotels running.
Without immigrant labor, the economy would collapse. So why the witch hunt? To drive immigrants further underground and to manipulate this reserve army of labor. The corporations want to super-exploit immigrant workers. They just don't want to be responsible for paying them the value of their labor or for providing benefits, services and basic democratic rights.
The corporations and the government are using the anti-immigrant legislation to mask the truth about the crisis looming for U.S. workers and the huge financial debt of the government.
This criminalization is also aimed at the rising tide of change developing throughout Latin and South America, from Venezuela to Oaxaca and Chiapas, a tide of resistance like that of the people of Cuba to U.S. global policies.
Capitalism thrives on the scapegoating of certain groups of people, which they use to try and divide us as workers. They want to keep us divided amongst each other because they want to prevent us from uniting to fight back against their bloody-handed system.
This is not the first time that immigrants have been scapegoated. Irish immigrants of the mid-1800s were vilified. During the 1800s, Chinese workers in the western part of the U.S. were subject to the most virulent racism, including lynching, and endured the most brutal working conditions.
From World War I until the 1920s, the government conducted anti-Jewish and anti-Italian reactionary attacks, including the Palmer Raids. Former President Theodore Roosevelt and many other prominent citizens of his era proclaimed their fears that the Anglo-Saxon was an endangered species due to immigration and to higher birth rates among the immigrants.
On the West Coast, Japanese immigrants were interned in concentration camps during World War II, and there were widespread police attacks on Chican@ youth in California during the same era.
The current attacks against immigrants must be seen as attacks on all workers. This current assault on immigrants is just another tactic-like racism, homophobia and sexism-that the ruling class uses to pit workers against each other. The only winners when this happens are the bosses.
Native people have dealt for centuries with the terrorism of the U.S., Canadian, Mexican and other colonizing governments. I urge all of you here tonight to consider the knowledge that we have gained during that time.
If we had unified early on, worked together rather than as separate nations, we may have prevailed and pushed the Europeans right back into the Atlantic Ocean.
Copyright (c) 1995-2006 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Where do they come from?
An LA Times article (8/6/01) uses recent census data to report where America's foreign-born were from in 2000:
Latin America: 51%
Latin America: 55%
Hmm. Perhaps Spencer should blame Latinos for only 55% of California's problems, not all of them. That's what he'd do if he were going by the statistics and not by his racist perception that "they" (meaning Latinos) are overwhelming "us."
Fortunately, it looks like Spencer is tiring of his unwinnable battle. Put him down as another abject loser in the culture wars.
Another solution for Spencer
A more sensible response to illegal immigration. From a letter to the editor of the LA Times, 9/10/01:
Give Undocumented Visas and Respect
As is well known by every thinking resident of this country, if all the illegal aliens were to be deported on the same day, this country would come to a screeching halt. We decry the illegals but continue to enjoy the life these lawbreakers allow us to maintain.
We must accept reality, even though most of us are against giving them citizenship for violating the law. Our forefathers came to this land legally, learned the language and blended into the melting pot.
These illegals are in actuality prisoners in this land. They have braved the Border Patrol, either walking across the desert or paying a "coyote" to bring them here. They cannot return to their homes, as this would force them to run that same gantlet again. Why don't we just give them visas, allowing them free travel to and from their homeland? They want to work, not be a burden to our system. The visas would not give them any preference in gaining citizenship but would honor them for their labors. They deserve not only our thanks but our respect for the work they do and the tribulations and prejudice they have had to endure.
No mercy for criminals?
Should we really give these lawbreakers a free pass as Speedling desires? From the LA Times, 9/7/01:
Amnesty—a Little Here, a Little There
Before we lose our heads entirely, let's take another look at immigration, the law and amnesty.
Many Americans are sick of wanton lawbreaking. What we have going on with all these Mexican workers is criminality, plain and simple, and we've tolerated it too long.
The views of these Americans are being expressed in Congress now by conservatives. They're fuming because they don't want us to get soft and reward such lawbreaking with any amnesty. Not even a qualified amnesty that offenders would have to earn by penitence—admitting their crimes, paying fines, saying they're sorry and proving their good work. Take that notion right off the table. Rep. Thomas G. Tancredo (R-Colo.) dismissed it as a "goofball idea." But, hey, do we really want to be so harsh on American business?
Yes. They're criminals, no question about that. The U.S. enacted a strict employer sanctions law in 1986. And thousands of businesses have been openly breaking the law these past 15 years, illegally hiring immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere. At least some businesses have been keeping these workers in a suspended state of indentured servitude, imposing on them substandard working conditions and then threatening to have them deported if they complain.
I'm among those who believe that Americans simply cannot tolerate the flouting of their laws on such a massive scale. But must we now punish these businesses to the full extent of the law? Should we fine them into bankruptcy and imprison their owners?
Seems heartless to me. I think many of these business executives and farm owners aren't such bad people, really. They're caught in a bad system. It's like driving on the freeway. Everyone is speeding, so you have to break the law just to keep apace. It's that way in restaurant kitchens, in hotel laundries, on contractor crews and, nearly universally, on farms. The fellow down the road is doing it. I've got to or I cannot compete. Nobody else will do the work. I have to break the law.
So call me squishy-headed on this one. I favor amnesty for businesses.
Let me rush to add, I'm not speaking of any painless blanket amnesty. I support what some people in Congress are calling "earned" legalization. The really awful businesses should be identified and excluded from eligibility. If they've been too harsh on their workers, I'm afraid I've got to join the conservatives and say, tough. It's over. Some of these folks deserve the full penalties provided by law.
But for the others, maybe the conservatives could join me.
Let's allow these business owners and executives to pay some reasonable fines. They can admit their crimes publicly, maybe post an apology at the door or in the fields. We might require some public service work or sensitivity training. Maybe we could prohibit their membership in the Chamber of Commerce or the Grange. They would, of course, have to take a test to prove their understanding of U.S. heritage and laws. Then gradually, like parolees, they could earn their way back into our good graces.
But it's not just business that has been violating our immigration laws. Many middle-class and upscale families are immigration lawbreakers too. They employ nannies and gardeners from Mexico, taking advantage of an abundance of labor that keeps down costs.
I think "earned" legalization should be extended to these families too. I've met some of these people, and I think their other contributions to society should count for something, even if they are, yes, part of the criminal element.
Oh, one more thing: Earned legalization must be "earned" the proper way, no short-cuts. Business owners, contractors, farmers and families who have been breaking the law by hiring undocumented Mexicans should be made to deal directly with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
How about: Once a week for a year, they line up at the Federal Building, at 2 a.m. regardless of weather, and wait. About 9 a.m. the line inches forward. At about noon, they actually see the sullen faces of the INS clerks ahead. But then it's lunch hour, so they wait more. Finally, about 2 p.m. they present themselves to the U.S. government and report on the progress of their rehabilitation. Clerks, of course, retain their full imperial authority to render instant judgment.
Perhaps conservatives will say this isn't punishment enough. But I appeal to their compassion. The United States is the beacon of hope, after all. These lawbreakers are not just faceless numbers on a chart. They are men and women who have contributed to our prosperity. Let's give them one more chance. "Earned" amnesty for business—it's only fair.
Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times
The Indian-immigration connection
The Great Immigration Debate of 1621
Indians know immigration
Us Against "Them"
Ill eagle immigrants
"I often say I agree and tell them things would be much better if all you settlers would leave."
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