Closed borders are open to racism

U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., has become notorious as one of America’s loudest anti-immigration hardliners. Compared to most U.S. politicians, he has a truly unrivaled history of spewing bigoted, xenophobic vitriol against immigrants. However, on Sept. 11, 2006, Tancredo managed to outdo even himself.

On this date, Tancredo addressed a Columbia, S.C., gathering of the League of the South (LOS). For those readers who do not know, LOS is a “neo-Confederate” organization that is widely considered to be a racist hate group. Tancredo was warmly welcomed at the event (which was apparently held in his honor), and enjoyed hobnobbing with members of LOS.

Tancredo and others like him are quick to deny any connections with racism, yet at the same time, they voluntarily associate with outfits like LOS.

The fact that Tancredo promotes his political agenda by currying up favor with this organization really does speak volumes. And as much as I wish it was not the case, Tancredo has ample company in this sort of disgusting behavior.

In the past two years or so, something called the “Minuteman Project” began popping up in the news. As most of us now know, the Minutemen are a national collectivity of anti-immigrant vigilantes who patrol the southern border with Mexico. By trying to apprehend “illegals,” the Minutemen claim that they are “doing the job Congress refuses to do.”

Although I would like to simply laugh them off as a bunch of kooks, these people are not part of a mere fringe group. They have received praise from many politicians and commentators for their activities.

However, none of this was enough for the Minuteman Project’s founder and leader, Jim Gilchrist. He decided to run for Senate in California under the banner of the American Independent Party, which was founded by Georgia Gov. George Wallace for his segregationist presidential bid during the 1960s.

But here is the real fly in the ointment: with full knowledge, Gilchrist allowed members of the National Alliance (an outright neo-Nazi group) to participate actively in his campaign. Hardly acting the part of a principled anti-racist, Gilchrist viewed the neo-Nazis as a useful means to further his political goals.

Tancredo and Gilchrist consciously interact with white supremacists, and they are two of the most influential nativist leaders. This alone should be enough to discredit the anti-immigration movement. But as I said before, these men are only two slices of a large, rancid pie – there are many others like them.

Numerous people that are hostile to immigration, from radio talk show hosts to local right-wing activists, willingly or subconsciously accommodate vile racist behavior and sentiment. Needless to say, they would never publicly acknowledge this fact.

But why does this disturbing connection subsist at all in the first place? In essence, far-right extremists view the current nativist movement as an effective way to put their agenda into the mainstream, and leaders of the movement see the extremists as reliable foot soldiers.

This is not to insinuate that the anti-immigration movement’s membership consists solely of bigots. Relatively benign individuals can be part of an extremely malignant superstructure.

That being said, one really must be suspicious of an entity that allies itself with racism on so many instances. And when it comes to the hideousness of racial chauvinism, one instance is too many.

As you probably gathered from reading this article, I am strongly in favor of immigrants’ rights. In fact, I support free and open immigration along with full amnesty. Nevertheless, the primary intention of this piece was not to defend my personal views on border policy, but to argue that nativism inevitably leads to racist consequences. It did during the immigration wave of the 1800s, and it does today.

I would love for nativists to prove me wrong, but the anti-immigration crowd as a whole will never take a unified and strong position against racism. Consequently, all progressive, forward-thinking individuals must.

If people want to call themselves lovers of justice and freedom, they must condemn and actively oppose 21st century nativism.

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