Extremist language and legislators help fuel hate groups

Image courtesy of Flickr user Fibonacci Blue
Image courtesy of Flickr user Fibonacci Blue

“The illegals who come here… don’t want to be American, they want to destroy our form of government.”

This was part of a speech made by State Senator Sylvia Allen at a Support Russell Pearce rally in October of last year. She spoke about illegal immigration and prefaced the quote above as part of a “La Raza mentality,” inferring that La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights organization, is working to destroy our government.

Though some may dismiss her rant as nothing more than a partisan speech to galvanize an anti-immigrant base, others are starting to question if extremist language, such as this, is encouraging the hate groups in Arizona.

I ask, how could it not?

Since last week’s murder of four individuals by known neo-Nazi J.T. Ready, the media has focused on the rise of hate groups in Arizona. And what motivates these hate groups? Illegal immigration.

Because Arizona is ground zero in the battle over immigration reform, we are also ground zero in the recruitment of White supremacists who worry that non-European immigrants will have a majority status in America.

Lawmakers such as Allen use language that not only promotes these ideas but also brings them into mainstream politics. How many times have we heard Tea Party legislators speak about the “invasion of illegals?” How many times have we heard these same lawmakers speak encouragingly about armed border militias?

J.T. Ready was head of an armed militia that patrolled the border and was identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. Recently, Glenn Spencer, the founder of another border militia that is classified as a hate group, was asked to speak to Arizona’s Senate Committee on Border Security, Federalism and States’ Sovereignty.

Spencer was invited by Senator Allen and Senator Al Melvin (a former member of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps) to speak as an expert on border security even though the Anti-Defamation League had previously warned both senators that Spencer was “an anti-Hispanic, anti-Semitic bigot.”

Spencer promotes a conspiracy theory known as Aztlan, which suggests Mexican immigrants are plotting to take over the American Southwest. Conspiracy theories such as Aztlan as well as the conspiracy theory that President Obama is a Muslim born in another country are other elements known to invigorate hate groups.

The Arizona legislature has no shortage of conspiracy theorists. From sponsoring legislation aimed at stopping a takeover by the United Nations to two failed attempts at passing a ‘birther’ bill, our state lawmakers have spent a great deal of time thwarting imaginary problems.

State Representative Carl Seel actually met with Donald Trump to discuss his ‘birther’ bill and was supported, yet again, by Senators Lori Klein (the lawmaker that read a letter on the floor of the Senate claiming Hispanic students don’t want to be educated but be gang members), Steve Smith, Judy Burgess, and Rick Murphy.

Most of these Republican lawmakers have given their undying support to SB1070 author and former Senate President Russell Pearce. Pearce, as we know, was good friends with J.T. Ready. Though he denies knowing anything about Ready’s involvement in or favorable attitudes toward White supremacy groups, the Regional Director of Arizona’s Anti-Defamation League, Bill Straus, has gone on record saying he warned Pearce about Ready’s activities more than a year before Pearce cut off ties with him.

Fox 10 News ran an in-depth report on Pearce’s ties to Ready as well as an interview in which Ready describes Pearce as a “surrogate father.” You can watch that story here.

By befriending leaders of hate groups and/or classifying them as experts on border security, state legislators help legitimize the views of hate groups. When they use offensive or misleading language to describe civil rights groups or classify undocumented immigrants, lawmakers encourage fear and promote the myths that pervade the immigration discussion.

Our lawmakers may not be part of the White supremacist groups that are infiltrating our state, but I firmly believe some of their words and actions are helping fuel the flames that light the fires of hate.


  1. Tyler Hurst

    Of course it does. Hate fuels hate, extremism fuels extremism.

    This state is doomed until the “leadership” realizes we don’t live in a walled garden anymore.

  2. Mike Slater

    As a conservative I’m against illegal immigration and hope the U.S. Supreme Court rules that SB1070 is constitutional. Having said that I don’t condone any hate groups on one side of this issue or the other.

    1. Gail Shoultes

      @ Mike S…..are you positive you are pro BS1070 or are you really for comprehensive immigration reform? If 1070 “mirrored” federal law, all we would have to do is enforce the federal law. It doesn’t mirror federal law and what the subtle problem that some people don’t grasp is that is stomps all over the civil rights of Mexican Americans. I will not help make latinos second class citizens. Now if we actually get the reform me need so circulatory migration can resume and suceed the way it did for decades BEFORE big money got into the mix.

  3. Bob Unferth

    Mike, I am an economic conservative, and have been unwaveringly for over 50 years. I literally sat at the feet of Milton Friedman.

    I too am against illegal immigration, but I am very firmly convinced that dealing with this issue through SB1070 type enforcement won’t work, will be counter-productive, inhumane and will be bad for America.

    As an economic conservative, I know that the economic incentives that drive immigration conflict with the laws designed to regulate it. Fighting economic forces in a market economy like the United States is an impossible task. If the market is creating demand there is an economic benefit when that demand is fulfilled: we are all better off. One must not believe in the free-enterprise/market-economy system to think otherwise.

    The overriding impact of immigrants has been, and is, to strengthen and enrich American culture, increase the total output of the economy, and raise the standard of living of American citizens.

    Immigrants are advantageous to the United States for several reasons:

    (1) Since they are willing to take a chance in a new land, they are self-selected on the basis of motivation, risk taking, work ethic, and other attributes beneficial to a nation.
    (2) They tend to come to the United States during their prime working years (the average age is 28), and they contribute to the workforce and make huge net contributions to old-age entitlement programs, primarily Social Security.
    (3) Immigrants tend to fill niches in the labor market where demand is highest relative to supply, complementing rather than directly competing with American workers.
    (4) Many immigrants arrive with extremely high skill levels, and virtually all, regardless of skill level, bring a strong desire to work.
    (5) Their children tend to reach high levels of achievement in American schools and in society at large.

    The only way to deal with the issue of illegal immigration is to bring the immigration laws into congruence with economic reality. The 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States today are a very positive benefit to our society. It would be extremely harmful to our economy, the social fabric of our country, our international position and the future of our children and grandchildren to seriously attempt to remove them from our communities.

    It is an on-going case of pure stupidity not to provide potential immigrants access to our country when they will provide economic and other benefits. I recall I conversation I had with a young Chinese man who had recently received his PhD in astrophysics (or some such related field) from Cal Tech. He was desperately trying to find a way to stay in this country and use his talents here. He was unsuccessful, and now works on some secret projects in China. How on Earth is that to our benefit?

    Such an analysis applies equally to a man who picks strawberries, although the military harm may not be as direct.

    Deal with immigration by changing the immigration laws and systems so that OUR economic needs are met. That will solve the problem of illegal immigration except for a very tiny number engaging in illegal activities. We’ll have the resources to deal with such individuals if we quit futility chasing cleaning ladies and dishwashers.

  4. Mike Slater

    Bob, what about all the costs to the American taxpayers such as free medical care, free education for the children, police and court costs. There is a legal way to enter this country and many people choose that route but the illegals don’t.

    I support SB1070 and am against the Dream Act for the fact that illegals should not be rewarded for breaking our laws.

    1. Post
      1. Bambi

        You are right. Immigration is a very large topic to delve into. Choose one aspect of it, parheps something that is in the news everyday. How about writing about immigrants coming here and doing the dirty jobs that Americans shun? Think about it. Most people (Americans) would never consider doing gardening, house cleaning, fruit picking or anything else of this nature. The jobs that I have mentioned are low-paying, usually dirty, back-breaking jobs. Immigrants, legal or illegal will work for little, with no job security or benefits, just to feed their families. Sad, isn’t it?

  5. chris ballard

    the benefits that the undocumented are providing far outway any entitlements they are using. For one thing about school children, People assume they are undocumented, without any evidence, but don’t you assume their parents are working and paying rent out of which is drawn property taxes that fund schools? There is also millions of unclaimed tax revenues due but the undocumented are afraid to file. If this government could institute a bracero guest worker program it would solve 90% of the immigration issue. these people are’nt after benefits or citizenship, they merely want to provide for their families. would you rather they pay upwards of 3000$ to smugglers to bring them in or pay that same amount to the USCIS for a work visa?

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  8. Carlos

    Come now, take a deep breath. Opposing illgeal immigration does not automatically equate with hatred of illgeal immigrants. One can certainly take the position that our immigration laws should be strictly enforced, while recognizing that most (not all!) of these immigrants are personally decent people trying to help their families out.But they should not break our laws to do so. Simple as that. Unless you know the hearts and attitudes of all the anti-immigration (really anti-ILLEGAL immigration) folks, you owe them the courtesy of not assuming bad intentions.

    1. Post
      Julie Erfle

      Carlos, most of the individuals who cross over illegally have no legal means to gain access to this country because getting here legally is nearly impossible without having a family member who is already a citizen or holds a green card or without having a highly skilled and in-demand occupation such as an engineer. This didn’t used to be the case. We used to have the Bracero program which was essentially a guest-worker program for low-skilled workers.

      And when legislators invite founders of hate groups to speak as “experts” or say civil rights organizations are destroying our government, I think we can definitely say they are fanning the flames of hate.

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