Sunday, September 03, 2006

Tim Walberg and the Minutemen

Tim Walberg's plan for immigration is clearly extreme and misguided, and would lead to tough punishment of the wrong people. But what about his other connection with the immigration issue?

During the primary campaign against Congressman Joe Schwarz, Minuteman PAC (the "political arm of the Minuteman Movement") was a major presence in support of Tim Walberg. On their website, he is listed as one of their four endorsed candidates.

Their involvement didn't go unnoticed. As reported by The Adrian Insider on August 3rd (five days before the primary):
The Minuteman PAC plans to pour $150,000 into a media blitz on Tim Walberg's behalf to oust incumbent Joe Schwarz, R-Battle Creek.
Walberg says Schwarz supports amnesty for illegal immigrants and is siding with his friend, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Sen. Ted Kennedy, the senior Democrat from Massachussets.
Walberg's ads linking Schwarz to Kennedy are likely to enrage and presumably bring out the district's conservative base.
But now the Minuteman's political action committee is marching into the 7th District race, having already spent $29,000 in ads, the Jackson Citizen Patriot reported Wednesday.
Although they now say they only spent $50,000, high spending in the final days of a tight election is more than a little significant. What do we know about the Minutemen?

The "founder" of the Minuteman movement is Jim Gilchrist. Gilchrist, a failed third-party candidate for Congress, is associated with the far-right Constitution Party, and has political views which largely match those of Tim Walberg-- "strongly pro-life," supports tax cuts, and opposes same-sex marriage. He also wants to boycott the Ford Motor Company because of a single television ad.

The head of Minuteman PAC and the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps is Chris Simcox. Under his leadership, the Minutemen have begun building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. The "wall," and the leadership of Simcox, haven't been without controversy. From the Southern Poverty Law Center:

The pivot point on which Simcox's own kind turned against him is his refusal to account for the $1.6 to $1.8 million in private donations he estimates MCDC raised, including $600,000 for the "Minuteman Border Fence," -- a slick fundraising campaign with a stated goal of $55 million. Simcox pledged the money raised by the campaign would go to build a high-tech security barrier along 70 miles of private ranchland on the Arizona border. Mass-mailed MCDC solicitations and full-page color advertisements in The Washington Times since mid-April promoted the Minuteman Border Fence as an "Israeli-style" barrier "based on the fences used in Gaza and the West Bank." Fundraising illustrations depict a 6-foot trench and coils of concertina wire backed by a 15-foot steel-mesh fence crowned with bulletproof security cameras. Estimated cost: $150 per foot.

Construction began Memorial Day weekend with much fanfare. Since then, MCDC volunteers erected just over two miles of five-strand barbed wire attached to short metal posts. What they built is a standard cattle fence, costing about $1.50 per foot, or about one one-hundredth the cost of the advertised "Israeli-style" barrier.

So far, in other words, the Minuteman Border Fence hasn't come to much. "It wouldn't stop a tricycle," American Border Patrol's Glenn Spencer posted in a recent online tirade. "It's shameful that [Simcox] would deceive the American people in this way."

The Southern Poverty Law Center goes into considerable detail regarding the lack of financial accountability in the Minuteman organization-- the "wall" is just a small part of the problems Simcox faces. But what kind of people are motivated to join the Minutemen? Well, the Southern Poverty Law Center can tell us that as well.

The night of April 3, armed vigilantes camped along Border Road in a series of watch posts set-up for the Minuteman Project, a month-long action in which revolving casts of 150 to 200 anti-immigration militants wearing cheap plastic "Undocumented Border Patrol Agent" badges mobilized in southeastern Arizona. Their stated goal was to "do the job our government refuses to do" and "protect America" from the "tens of millions of invading illegal aliens who are devouring and plundering our nation."

At Station Two, Minuteman volunteers grilled bratwursts and fantasized about murder.

"It should be legal to kill illegals," said Carl, a 69-year old retired Special Forces veteran who fought in Vietnam and now lives out West. "Just shoot 'em on sight. That's my immigration policy recommendation. You break into my country, you die."

Carl was armed with a revolver chambered to fire shotgun shells. He wore this hand cannon in a holster below a shirt that howled "American bad asses" in red, white and blue. The other vigilantes assigned to Station Two included a pair of self-professed members of the National Alliance, a violent neo-Nazi organization. These men, who gave their names only as Johnny and Michael, were outfitted in full-body camouflage and strapped with semi-automatic pistols.


"The thing to do would be to drop the bodies just a few hundred feet into the U.S. and just leave them there, with lights on them at night," he said. "That sends the message 'No Trespassing,' in any language."

The conversation stopped just short of decapitating Mexicans and putting their heads on pikes, facing south.

Of course, it's not just the immigrants they hate; sometimes, you can be anti-immigrant, but too soft on them:
The woman, who said she was with a Pennsylvania anti-immigration group, had outraged Johnny and Michael that afternoon by reporting for duty with a Star of David pendant dangling below the neckline of her "I Survived the Minuteman Project" t-shirt. She also squabbled with them over the morality of pit bull fighting, and expressed her belief in animal rights and no-kill dog and cat shelters. They started calling her "Jew bitch" behind her back.
But that's not all...
While Gilchrist is newly prominent on the anti-immigration front — he recently joined the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, a hate group whose leader routinely describes Mexicans as "savages" — Simcox has been active since 2002, when he founded Civil Homeland Defense, a Tombstone-based vigilante militia that he brags has captured more than 5,000 Mexicans and Central Americans who entered the country without visas.

The graphic on Michael's sign was almost identical to the imagery on a billboard the Alliance paid to put up earlier this year in a predominantly Latino neighborhood of Las Vegas and on Alliance fliers that were tossed onto driveways and lawns in Douglas and Tombstone in late March during a dead-of-night distribution drive.

"Immigration or invasion?" those fliers read. "Non-whites are turning America into a Third World slum. They come for welfare or to take our jobs. They bring crime. Let's send them home now!"

Johnny and Michael offered their last names to no one, and never spoke of their jobs, though Michael said he had fought in the first Gulf War with the 82nd Airborne Division. At the protest, he wore a desert camouflage vest over a black shirt emblazoned with a white fist and combat boots. There were other small clues to the pair's ideology. Driving to the protest, they blasted the white-power rock band Youngblood. Johnny made several references to the "14 Words," a white supremacist adage ("We must secure the existence of our race and a future for White children"). Johnny also had a National Alliance symbol tattooed to the back of his neck and "Born in the C.S.A." (referring to the Confederate States of America) inked below his left jawbone.

These are the people that support Tim Walberg enough to spend $50,000 on his behalf. I don't intend to accuse Walberg himself of anything. However, the policies he supports, which earn him the affection of the Minutemen, should be seriously questioned.


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