This past weekend, during the same two days that anti-immigrant activists protested in support of Arizona in Farmers Branch, TX and Tea Party members staged a rally at the border in Arizona, neo-Nazis marched down the streets of Knoxville, TN with a common purpose. The three separate, but related protests, illustrate how the white supremacist movement has latched onto the immigration issue — particularly Arizona’s immigration law, SB-1070. As proponents of SB-1070 insist that their support of the law has nothing to do with race, they can’t deny that for some people it boils down to “white people who are not afraid to stand up,” as one Tennessee rally attendee noted.
Watch coverage of neo-Nazi rally:
At the neo-Nazi rally in Knoxville, one demonstrator explained the motivations guiding the march: “Federal economic policies are unsustainable. Our country is going broke. Stop giving away our jobs to countries that hate us. Secure our border. Put race and nation first.” The rhetoric in Farmers Branch and Arizona was not remarkably different. In Hereford, AZ, where approximately 400 Tea Party activists gathered yesterday, Tucson radio host proclaimed, “[i]nstead of finding bugs in our beds, we’re finding home invaders.” Cindy Kolb, “a border activist” who attended the gathering screamed over the border fence, “[w]e don’t like illegals hiding under bushes when our kids wait for the school bus. This border needs to be secure.” The Farmers Branch rally was organized by the Salt Lake City-based Americans Against Immigration Amnesty, which states on its website, “Many of those seeking amnesty refuse to assimilate to our culture or language and refuse to respect our citizens and laws. Rather, they demand we assimilate to them and their culture, teach our children their language and shamelessly fly their country’s flag over ours.”
Watch coverage of this weekend’s Tea Party rally:
Anecdotal evidence from this weekend aside, a recent poll revealed that even many Arizonans think the immigration debate has “exposed a deeper sense of racism in our community.” Meanwhile, the East Valley Tribune reports that “[w]hite supremacist activity is on the rise in Arizona.” Experts note that the immigration debate has always been a recruiting tool for racist groups, even before the passage of SB-1070. However, heightened tensions over the polarizing new law give the groups a leg up. “They become more emboldened every day,” says Bill Straus, Arizona regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. Straus’ observations are evidenced by the dramatic increase in anti-immigrant hate groups coupled with escalated neo-Nazi anti-immigrant activity both on- and off-line, and the presence of heavily armed neo-Nazis who started patrolling the border in search of undocumented immigrants shortly after SB-1070 was signed into law.