As I mentioned yesterday, it’s important to remember the big picture. In light of last week’s mass shooting attacks in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton, we must acknowledge some very uncomfortable truths, not just on gun violence, but also on who we are and what we’re allowing to happen underneath our noses. On that note, we’re revisiting two more stories I wrote in 2014, stories that feel eerily prescient in light of this week’s tragic headlines.
Let’s begin with a story I wrote on July 8, 2014. Sadly, there’s a long trail of anti-immigrant hate crimes that leads to El Paso. Like yesterday’s blast from the past, I made a few edits to fix broken links and clean up some language.
He broke the law. It was obvious to many that he broke the law. Yet somehow, he amassed his own militia to fight a “Range War”. And at one point, he became a media darling celebrated by “TEA” powered pundits & politicians across the nation.
Cliven Bundy exploded onto the national media stage with his outrageous views on Constitutional law, community relations, and civil rights. He even convinced a bunch of far-right politicians to stand with him in urging law enforcement agencies to stop enforcing the law.
After about 3 weeks of bumbling around this issue, outgoing Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie (R) has finally admitted that Cliven Bundy needs to be “held accountable” for breaking the law. We can only wonder if the murder of Metro Police Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo (along with civilian Joseph Robert Wilcox) by two Bundy Ranch devotees has finally registered with him.
Before El Paso, there was a murder in Southern Arizona
In recent weeks, we’ve been digging deep into the dark side of the “Patriot Movement” that its allegedly “mainstream” “TEA” tinged allies prefer that we not notice. And in doing so, we’ve been reminded of the lurid story of Jim Gilchrist and Shawna Forde. Jim Gilchrist was once a Congressional candidate in Orange County, California, who managed to turn a long-shot local campaign into a national movement. And Shawna Forde ultimately became his right-hand woman on the Arizona Border after raising hell in Washington State. Gilchrist, Forde, and their army of Minutemen ultimately succeeded in killing comprehensive immigration reform in 2006.
But when Shawna Forde was arrested in 2009 for the murder of Raul and Brisenia Flores, Gilchrist suddenly denied his extensive working relationship with Forde. He even later embarked on a “rebranding campaign”. After all, how better to respond to evidence of encouraging criminal behavior than to “rebrand” oneself as a “kinder, gentler anti-immigrant demagogue”?
Jim Gilchrist is back. In the wake of the Murrieta bus blockade, Gilchrist has declared his interest in restarting Minutemen vigilante patrols along the entire US Border. And already, some “TEA” powered activists are vowing to start patrolling South Texas.
Whatever happened to the “rule of law”, anyway?
Ironically, anti-immigrant extremists claim they just want to “enforce the law“. But as the Obama Administration is taking action to enforce current law regarding these Central American migrant children, the 21st Century Know Nothings are now breaking the law… And encouraging violent “revolution“?
When and where have we heard this before? Would Sheriff Gillespie like to explain? Would Cliven Bundy like to discuss this? Would the residents of Bunkerville and Mesquite like to chime in? Perhaps we should also extend the invitation to the families of Officers Beck and Soldo?
They broke the law. It’s becoming increasingly obvious to many that they broke the law. Ironically, they’re crying about “enforcing the law” while they’re breaking the law… And threatening even more violent and illegal activities.
Politicians who are rushing to celebrate the Murrieta bus blockade and encourage even more of these activities need to think twice before going any further down this path. After all, they claim to care so much about “enforcing the law”.
Now, let’s shift to something I wrote on July 9, 2014. Notice anything familiar here?
Already, it’s gone from a humanitarian crisis to a political football. And now, the usual G-O-TEA suspects want to make Murrieta into their new rallying cry. Just keep in mind that this didn’t start with the Murrieta bus blockade. This didn’t even start with the growing media attention to the Central American migrant children. No, the 21st Century Know Nothings have been around for some time. And they’ve been making the same arguments against scores of immigrants that they’re now using against the migrant children.
[Editor’s Note: This is obviously not a new issue, but for a fresher perspective on the Central American refugee crisis, check out my interview with immigration attorney Laura Barrera in June 2018 and my conversation with UNLV Immigration Law Clinic Director Michael Kagan in May 2019.]
In Murrieta last week, the Mayor and anti-immigrant protesters were claiming fear of “diseases”. This didn’t come from nowhere. For many years, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and Numbers USA have been spreading their signature message of hate. And it’s no coincidence that they’re all so eerily on message like this. They can all trace their origins to one John Tanton, a well known racist/white supremacist who’s been attacking communities of color since 1969.
More on the mastermind behind this mess
During the early years of Tanton’s anti-immigrant advocacy, he operated in the dark shadows of American politics. But in 1994, one Barbara Coe launched a campaign that would forever transform California and American politics. In 1994, Coe launched both the California Coalition for Immigration Reform and the campaign for Proposition 187. Suddenly, John Tanton‘s radically xenophobic “philosophy” was making national headlines and California public policy.
That’s because Prop 187 passed in November 1994. But soon after it was passed, it was halted in federal court and later invalidated. Barbara Coe would then go on to embrace “fringe of the fringe” conspiracy theory powered extremism before she passed away last September. And as a result of the California Republican Party’s then unapologetic support of Prop 187, it’s becoming increasingly irrelevant in the multicultural California of today.
Yet even though Prop 187 and its Number One cheerleader have met their demise, their legacy lives on. Barbara Coe essentially launched Jim Gilchrist‘s political career. Jim Gilchrist encouraged the “unique brand of activism” pushed by Shawna Forde. And the anti-immigrant movement built by the likes of Tanton, Coe, and Gilchrist encouraged Sharron Angle to shock Nevada and the nation with her xenophobic US Senate campaign.
When, where, and how did fringe begin to sneak into the mainstream?
In case you were wondering, John Tanton hasn’t gone anywhere. In fact, Tanton’s network of anti-immigrant outfits succeeded in convincing most Congressional Republicans (and even a few conservative Democrats as well) in 2006 to kill a comprehensive immigration reform proposal that then President George W. Bush championed. And John Tanton’s network has deep ties to the Minutemen movement that Jim Gilchrist founded. [Editor’s Note: John Tanton passed away on July 16, 2019.]
Even Gilchrist himself later admitted that his Minutemen movement attracted a number of fringe characters. Those fringe characters include neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and convicted murderers J.T. Ready and Shawna Forde.
The Minutemen movement has also “graduated” “movement leaders” like Connie Foust. She had been part of the Minutemen vigilante patrols along the Arizona Border. But now, she’s in charge of the Virgin Valley TEA Party. And earlier this year, her Virgin Valley TEA Party rallied hard behind Cliven Bundy and his radical right militia fueled “Range War” against federal law.
Is it really any surprise that Cliven Bundy is now endorsing the Murrieta bus blockade? Both have been merrily endorsed by Fox “News”. Both have embraced dangerous extremists and their radical anti-government ideology. Both are angling for an epic political comeback. And both celebrate extreme xenophobia.
Now, the full circle of hate is complete.
Postscript: “You think about the words of that innocent child. She didn’t even know what he was talking about. She only knows one home: That’s my state, that’s your state, that’s the United States of America.”
– U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), in Las Vegas on April 7, 2019
Fast forward to September 2018: While campaigning for then U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) here in Las Vegas, President Donald Trump tauntingly proclaimed, “Jacky Rosen [D] voted for criminal aliens, against veterans. [She voted] for criminal aliens, against the citizens of this country.” While Trump failed to save Heller from losing this Senate seat to Rosen last fall, his campaign has continued to run on bigotry, even to the point of running nearly 2,200 Facebook ads claiming “invasion”.
During his last visit to Las Vegas in April, Trump mockingly and misleadingly compared Central American refugees to “UFC fighters” in defending his illegal incarceration of refugees at border prison camps and his deportation regime targeting already established immigrant communities in this nation (including in Nevada). The day after Trump’s visit, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) campaigned in Las Vegas, took our question on immigration while speaking with reporters, and shared the story of a Somali-American family who was harassed while eating out in explaining where she stands on immigration reform. As Klobuchar pointed out, “You think about the words of that innocent child. She didn’t even know what he was talking about. She only knows one home: That’s my state, that’s your state, that’s the United States of America.”
Klobuchar told this story again last Saturday, when we were first learning details of the El Paso Shooting. Thus far, Donald Trump has mostly stayed out of public view while visiting El Paso and Dayton after their respective mass shooting attacks… But he did sneak onto Twitter to insult Joe Biden again, and his staying out of public view may have more to do with him refusing to accept responsibility for stoking extremist hatred , failing to act on the threat of domestic terrorism, and failing to act on gun violence.
Over the weekend, nearly all the Democrats who were in town for the AFSCME Forum placed the blame on Trump’s feet for the recent massacres in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton. All they had to do was point at Trump’s own words and deeds to back up their claims. But now, it’s up to the rest of the country to recognize how far back this trail of hate goes, and then decide what to actually do about it.