We’ve been reading news of an audio recording of controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio joking before a Texas anti-immigration group in 2009 about his refusal to cooperate in a federal investigation into racial profiling. Just as troubling as Arpaio’s 2009 speech to the group, however, might be the group he was speaking to: Texans For Immigration Reduction and Enforcement (TFIR). (The Houston-based organization changed its name from Texans For Immigration Reform in October 2011.)
TFIR’s website at first gives the impression that the group is concerned mostly with stopping illegal immigration. We should be clear: opposition to illegal immigration doesn’t make someone a bigot. But when you click a little further into TFIR’s website, alarm bells start to ring.
Among the recommended weblinks on TFIR’s website is VDARE, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a “white nationalist” website. According to the SPLC, VDARE has posted articles claiming that Jews overwhelmingly support “non-traditional immigration, which has the effect of weakening America’s historic white majority’”; insisting that “America was defined — almost explicitly, sometimes very explicitly — as a white nation, for white people”; and arguing that America’s “rulers and elites … sacrifice our interests to those of favored minorities.”
TFIR’s website itself includes several disturbing videos, including two suggesting that Muslims as a whole are a threat to Western civilization (read: white Europeans and Christianity). One video darkly insists that “Islamic immigration” is taking over Europe, while another warns of the Islamic “enemy within” the United Kingdom. (The latter video begins with the words “The British fighting spirit is needed now more than ever” superimposed over scenes of British soldiers from a World War II movie.)
A third video — titled “Mexican Pirates Attacking Americans!” — focuses on drug-war violence along the U.S. border with Mexico. Toward the end of the clip is former President George W. Bush warning in a years-old statement, “The United States of America is a terrorist base of operations.” Immediately following Bush’s statement is a maniacal laugh and scream along with a photograph of a dark-skinned man wearing a sombrero and an eye patch.
Again, opposing illegal immigration (or being concerned about immigration generally) doesn’t make someone a bigot. But TFIR is using opposition to illegal immigration as a cover for promoting fear and bigotry. Sadly, we see much of that in the anti-immigration movement.