Jingo All the Way
Maria Sepulveda's father so offended her, she doesn't want anyone else from his native Chile to come to the United States. Or at least not many more. As a spokeswoman for a national association which seeks to virtually end immigration--legal and illegal--she's paid to promote the idea that the country is crowded enough and doesn't need newcomers.
The U.S.-born Sepulveda says her father emigrated from Chile and opened a business. He encouraged other Chileans to emigrate as well, promising them jobs when they arrived. He did this, Sepulveda says, despite the presence of unemployed Americans--people he refused to hire.
"It hurts me, as a Latina, to see immigrants displace other immigrants," she says, adding in flawless, unaccented English: "We can't assimilate the people who are already here."
It was apparently lost on Sepulveda that her own immigrant family had, within a generation, assimilated quite successfully.
Speaking by phone from Washington, D.C., Sepulveda explains how she came to understand that limiting immigration is an environmental--not cultural or ethnic--issue.
While researching pollution problems for a school project, Sepulveda became aware of population effects on the environment. It was then, she says, that she realized her father was part of that problem.
Today, Sepulveda works for Population-Environment Balance, one of four national organizations which recently targeted Arizona in a monthlong media campaign. Full-page newspaper ads, radio spots and television programs competed for the attention of Arizonans in November, and will likely resurface after the turn of the new year. The organizers say they see in Arizona fertile ground for a movement they've been pushing in other states for years.
Sepulveda says the campaign has done extremely well, more than tripling the size of her group's mailing list in Arizona. Other organizations in the effort report similar gains.
On November 10, representatives from Sepulveda's organization and several others, including two local groups, held a press conference on the steps of the federal courthouse to launch their media campaign.
Speakers included a representative of another group concerned with the environmental effects of immigration called Negative Population Growth; author Roy Beck, who uses census data to show the effects of immigration on jobs and wages; and members of two other national organizations less shy about citing the cultural effects of immigration, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and the American Immigration Control Foundation.
After the speeches, reporters asked whether, despite the campaign's focus on such issues as jobs and the environment, some of the speakers' statements were likely to appeal to bigots.
The groups responded by sending out Rebecca Ann Sandoval, a member of a tiny Tucson immigration-reform group, who screamed at the gathered journalists, admonishing them for looking for a racist agenda. How could the immigration reformers be racists with someone named Sandoval on their side?
In conversations with New Times, however, leaders of the campaign acknowledge that they constantly field such questions about their motivations. And, yes, they admit, their campaign does tend to attract bigots. But the reformers say they've weathered past revelations about questionable sources of their funding--revelations about connections with groups interested in proving the supremacy of the white race--and are determined to keep their Arizona campaign one that doesn't appeal to baser motivations.
Sensitive about being branded racists, the organizers of the campaign have latched on to other, more palatable themes. Their campaign is about jobs, wages and urban sprawl, they say, and not meant to exploit negative perceptions of Mexican immigrants.
But in a state where the public has defended police who recently joined with the Border Patrol in raiding the Chandler homes of Mexican-American citizens to demand their "papers," that distinction may be very difficult to maintain.
Roy Beck is talking about what makes immigration such a strange animal in the political menagerie.
It's an issue that confounds traditional party differences, splitting Republicans and Democrats alike. Support for high levels of immigration comes not only from civil-liberty-minded liberals concerned with providing sanctuary for persecuted foreign nationals, but also conservative, free-market Republicans who extol the virtues of cheap labor, as well as "family-values" conservatives who like the traditional values Latin-American newcomers bring with them.
On the other side, coalitions for immigration reform face the challenge of uniting unionist Democrats who worry about immigration lowering wages, conservative environmentalists and less free-market-oriented Republicans concerned with the cultural effect of so many newcomers.
Beck, author of The Case Against Immigration, figures the best way to cement that coalition is to stick to the numbers. And he's become well-known nationally for his ability to do so.
His video program Immigration by the Numbers, a lecture which boils down his book's argument, ran several times on local television as part of the Arizona media campaign. One showing in particular, which appeared on KPHO Channel 5 before a college football game, produced more than 300 calls to Beck's 800 number, he says.
Until five years ago, Beck was a reporter covering Congress for a Midwestern chain of newspapers. He still has a Midwestern twang despite his years inside the Beltway, and he has a disarming, easygoing manner atypical of other activists. In an hourlong telephone conversation, Beck doesn't once fall into deprecating statements about recent immigrants and expresses distaste for the kind of immigrant-bashing that occurred in California's 1994 passage of Proposition 187.
In Immigration by the Numbers, he reinforces that point. "The problem is not immigrants," he says, "it's the numbers of them."
To a spellbound audience, Beck quotes census figures to show the changing rates of immigration in the past seven decades. In the 40-year period between 1925 and 1965, for example, legal U.S. net immigration averaged 178,000 people per year.
Beck calls it The Golden Era of Immigration. "I can find no time in history when immigrants were so welcomed, when they assimilated so quickly or did so well," he says on the tape. "We became a middle-class society during that golden era of immigration," he says, and cites advances for African Americans as a byproduct of that period and its low immigration.
After major changes to immigration law in 1965, those numbers changed dramatically. Average legal migration in the period 1965 to 1989 rose to 500,000 per year. In the 1990s, that number has risen to 800,000. (Estimates of the numbers of illegals vary wildly, but tend to hover around 350,000 annually.)
Beck argues that those dates correlate with significant changes in the fortune of America's working and middle classes. In times of lower immigration, working Americans--particularly minorities--have made significant gains. In times of high immigration, he argues, those gains have been lost. The correlation is so strong, to Beck it suggests a causal link.
He then cites Census Bureau projections of how the American population will grow in the next 50 years. Making effective use of a large chart, Beck shows that the Census Bureau expects America's population, presently around 267 million people, to reach nearly 400 million people by the year 2050. Ninety percent of that growth, Beck says, will come from immigrants and their children.
In his audience, mouths drop open in astonishment.
And that's when he hits them with his pitch: Why not lower immigration to the 1925-65 rates, what Beck calls "traditional" immigration levels? If letting in fewer than 200,000 newcomers each year did so well for working Americans in that era, why couldn't it work now?
The presentation is effective, particularly because it seems to rely on irrefutable facts--numbers provided not by Beck but by the U.S. government.
But Beck does rely heavily on several assumptions that he doesn't elaborate on in his videotape (as well as glossing over such economic factors as The Great Depression, during which Beck seems to suggest great gains were made for the American middle class). How, for example, did Beck come to choose 1925 as the beginning of The Golden Era of Immigration, and what makes its levels of immigration more "traditional" than the century of immigration that preceded it?
"'Traditional' is an imprecise term," he admits. "That's one tradition we had. I use it because it's a time when things went very well . . . This is a subjective thing, calling it traditional."
He says that the tradition of earlier decades--a period that saw some of the highest immigration in the country's history--was disastrous.
"It was a terrible tradition in 1890 to 1925. Our teaching about immigration of that period is badly skewed. That period saw the creation of massive sweatshop systems. We had no sweatshops in 1965. Now we're becoming a country of sweatshops again," he says.
Eight million immigrants, many from southern and eastern Europe, entered the U.S. in the decade 1900-10, a level of immigration unmatched until the 1990s, which may exceed that number. The two periods do present other similarities; in both periods people who opposed such levels of immigration, but who did so for less noble motives than reformers such as Roy Beck, were alarmed not only by the number of newcomers but their places of origin. Some wondered if the huddled masses would ever assimilate and predicted that, concentrated in enclaves, they might not.
During World War I, those high immigration numbers came crashing down. Before they could climb again, Congress imposed strict limits which went into effect in 1925. Beck and his peers would like to see that repeated, if not for the same reasons.
An immigrant, perhaps a Russian Jew, after traveling by boat for weeks, arrives in New York in the spring of 1913. While negotiating the maze at Ellis Island, he's pulled aside by a woman.
The woman asks him to look at a line drawing. The figure is then withdrawn and the immigrant is given a pencil and asked to draw it from memory. Other tasks in the test include asking the immigrant--who may have left a place which kept a calendar very different from that in use in the United States--to name the present date and year.
Only a few years earlier, a French scientist, Alfred Binet, had invented the test as a way to determine whether children were of normal intelligence or were, in the parlance of the time, "feeble-minded."
It was the first intelligence test, and measured something called the "intelligence quotient," or IQ. Binet had warned that his test had limited value and should only be used to identify children who would need special help in school. He did not intend that it be used to test the general public or that the numbers it produced represented a real measure of "intelligence," whatever that was.
But American researcher H.H. Goddard, ignoring all of Binet's warnings, seized on the tool and began testing immigrants. Goddard had hired the women administering the tests because he believed that with their "women's intuition" they could pick out immigrants of low intelligence who were worth testing for feeble-mindedness. To Goddard's utter astonishment, the immigrants were shockingly slow; 83 percent of Jewish test-takers, for example, tested below the feeble-mindedness threshold.
"Most are poor and have never gone to school; many have never held a pencil or pen in their hand. They march off a boat; one of Goddard's intuitive women takes them aside shortly thereafter, sits them down, hands them a pencil, and asks them to reproduce on paper a figure shown to them a moment ago, but now withdrawn from their sight," writes Stephen Jay Gould in his 1981 book The Mismeasure of Man, which details how social and cultural assumptions have repeatedly contaminated investigations of heredity and intelligence. "Could [the immigrants'] failure be a result of testing conditions, of weakness, fear, or confusion, rather than of innate stupidity? Goddard considered the possibility, but rejected it."
Instead, a decade later, Goddard's results would be presented to members of Congress as they debated whether to reduce the immigration of Russian Jews and others into the United States.
One of those testifying on behalf of lowering immigration levels was a man named Harry Hamilton Laughlin. An advocate of eugenics--a philosophy, then growing in popularity, which seeks to improve the human race through selective breeding--Laughlin cited Goddard's results and argued that the genetic "inadequacy" of eastern and southern Europeans would negatively affect "the germ plasm of the future American population."
Laughlin was one of several experts who helped convince Congress to severely clamp down on immigration in 1924. For the next 40 years--Beck's "Golden Era of Immigration"--immigrating to the U.S. from eastern Europe became very difficult; for Asians it became nearly impossible.
"For years, [Laughlin] successfully lobbied to maintain the restrictions, which eventually blocked an escape route for Jews fleeing the Nazis," Newsday reported in 1994. "In 1922, Laughlin wrote and lobbied for a law that forced the sterilization of tens of thousands of 'unfit' U.S. citizens, including the insane, the homeless and the blind."
Similar laws were later passed in Nazi Germany, where Laughlin was lauded. In 1936, the University of Heidelberg awarded Laughlin an honorary degree. Laughlin, in turn, asked the American Eugenics Society to offer Adolf Hitler an honorary membership.
The next year, five New York millionaires created a private foundation with an endowment of $5 million. One of those men was Wickliffe P. Draper, a textile tycoon who advocated sending American blacks to Africa.
The millionaires named their creation the Pioneer Fund and charged it with backing research in heredity, eugenics and "race betterment." Harry Laughlin became its first president.
He died four years later, however, and until the 1950s, the fund remained largely inactive. Partly, that may have been a result of the severe blow eugenics suffered as the truth about Nazi atrocities came to light. In 1950, the United Nations made its famous declaration in the wake of the Holocaust that "Mankind is one."
Eugenicists and researchers in hereditary intelligence were all but driven underground.
The Pioneer Fund persevered, however, and became increasingly active through the 1950s. It was the fund's opposition to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision to integrate public schools which attracted its current president, New York lawyer Harry F. Weyher, who assumed the job in 1958.
Since then, the Pioneer Fund has doled out money to people such as Roger Pearson, a British ex-patriate living in Georgia who, in 1958, founded the Northern League to promote "the interests, friendship and solidarity of all Teutonic nations."
"Early recruits," reports the London-based Independent, "included Hans Gunther, who was awarded a Goethe medal in 1941 for his work on Nordic racial philosophy, Ernest Sevier Cox, an American leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and Dr. Wilhelm Kusserow, a former SS Untersturmfuhrer."
Between 1981 and 1991 alone (payments continued at least through 1994), Pearson received $568,000 from the Pioneer Fund to publish Mankind Quarterly, a publication dedicated to "race science."
In the 1970s, reports the Independent, Mankind Quarterly's editorial advisers included Otmar, Baron Von Verscheur, who had served as director of the genetics and eugenics program at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute during World War II. While at the institute, the baron recommended one of his students, Joseph Mengele, for a post as doctor at Auschwitz.
The Pioneer Fund has also paid for research by various scientists looking for proof of a connection between heredity and IQ scores, and IQ score difference between races.
Some of the Pioneer Fund's largest grants have gone to a well-known--and well-respected--study of twins at the University of Minnesota.
But the fund has also given more than $500,000 to Phillipe Rushton, a Canadian professor who asserts that brain size and intelligence are greater in Asians than whites, who in turn have larger brains and more intelligence than blacks. He also argues that penis size shows a similar, but reverse, correlation, and claims that the larger penises of blacks is an indication of greater promiscuity--a conclusion he based on interviewing 50 black students at the university where he teaches--and proof that blacks are less evolved. In 1989, police investigated Rushton under Canadian hate-propaganda laws but did not charge him.
Weyher has denied that the Pioneer Fund advances a political agenda (which could jeopardize its tax-exempt status), but the Independent noted that in a letter dated November 13, 1989, the Pioneer Fund called for ending government policies which promoted social and educational integration. Such mixing of the races, the fund argued, will not erase innate differences between them: "Raising the intelligence of blacks or others still remains beyond our capabilities."
In 1979, a Petoskey, Michigan, ophthalmologist named John Tanton approached the Pioneer Fund about a new lobbying group he was forming.
Previously, according to James Crawford in his excellent history Hold Your Tongue, Tanton had been involved with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, and, like many 1970s liberals, had become interested in predictions of a "population bomb." Tanton eventually became president of the national group Zero Population Growth just as declining American fertility rates deflated the population scare. Tanton then turned to population growth caused by immigration but found that liberals in the environmental movement--his former allies--didn't share his enthusiasm because of concerns about racial overtones.
So, in 1979, seeking money to start his own group, Tanton turned to the Pioneer Fund. Since then, Tanton's organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)--one of the groups which has come to lobby Arizonans about foreign immigration--has received more than $1 million from its eugenicist benefactor, the Pioneer Fund.
In 1983, Tanton asked California Senator S.I. Hayakawa to serve as honorary chairman of another group he was forming called U.S. English, which would lobby for English-only laws, including the 1988 initiative passed in Arizona.
But that year, 1988, would also see a meltdown of Tanton's influence.
A month before the Arizona vote, the Arizona Republic revealed the contents of an internal U.S. English/FAIR memo prepared by Tanton and not meant for public consumption. The seven-page memo seemed to confirm the worst assumptions about Tanton's organizations. In it, Tanton posed questions about the effects of Latino immigration:
"Will Latin American migrants bring with them the tradition of the mordida (bribe), the lack of involvement in public affairs, etc.? . . . Is assimilation a function of the educational and economic levels of immigrants? If so, what are the consequences of having so many ill-educated people coming in to low-paying jobs? . . . Can homo contraceptivus compete with homo progenitiva if borders aren't controlled? Or is advice to limit ones [sic] family simply advice to move over and let someone else with greater reproductive powers occupy the space? . . . Perhaps this is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down!"
Publication of the memo prompted U.S. English president Linda Chavez, a former Reagan administration official whom U.S. English had hired a year earlier, to resign in disgust. Tanton was also persuaded to resign his post at U.S. English amid further revelations.
Crawford writes that Chavez learned not only about Pioneer Fund contributions but also that Tanton had solicited large contributions from philanthropist Cordelia Scaife May, who donated generously to FAIR and U.S. English, as well as Population-Environment Balance. Tax returns show that May gave at least $5.8 million to the groups during the 1980s. "Her funding decisions have increasingly favored groups working to reduce fertility in the Third World or to limit the flow of Third World immigrants," Crawford writes.
Chavez learned that May had also paid $5,000 to help disseminate The Camp of the Saints, a French novel by Jean Raspail. What The Turner Diaries is to the American militia movement, Raspail's book about hordes of Third World undesirables overrunning Europe is to nativists. The book's popularity with Tantonites, Chavez realized, was further proof that she had got in with the wrong crowd.
Questioned by the press about Pioneer Fund contributions, Tanton claimed to know nothing about the fund other than its support of the University of Minnesota twins study. He claimed to be ignorant about the Pioneer Fund's connection to numerous researchers seemingly intent on proving the inferiority of blacks, as well as its unsavory ties to Nazism.
Today, Tanton remains active in FAIR and publishes books and videotapes from his hometown. Among the materials published by his Social Contract Press: Roy Beck's video Immigration by the Numbers.
Tanton's supposed ignorance about the Pioneer Fund didn't explain FAIR's continuing to accept its money. As late as 1994, the lobbying group accepted Pioneer Fund cash--$100,500 that year, according to tax records--until FAIR finally decided to accept no more money from Weyher's group.
By then, FAIR was embroiled in another controversy which invited press inquiry about its funding.
1994 had witnessed an explosive debate over publication of the book The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, who concluded that innate differences in IQ levels suggested the inferiority of blacks and that government programs intended to improve black achievement, programs such as Head Start and Affirmative Action, were doomed to failure. For their data, Herrnstein and Murray had relied heavily on the IQ research of many Pioneer Fund recipients--a fact repeatedly noted by the book's many critics.
That brought new attention to FAIR's connection to the Pioneer Fund at a time when the organization's western regional coordinator, Rick Oltman, was serving as chairman of a Yes on 187 campaign--California's so-called "Save Our State" initiative. The initiative, which passed with 59 percent of the vote, threatens to deny illegal immigrants access to such basic state institutions as welfare, schools and hospitals. (The initiative is currently not in effect as the courts consider its constitutionality.)
For opponents attempting to characterize the initiative as a shortsighted, bigoted reaction to illegal immigration rather than a solution to it, Oltman's and FAIR's connections to the Pioneer Fund proved irresistible fodder. As did revelations that the initiative had been co-authored by one of FAIR's paid consultants.
FAIR shrugs off questions about its funding and advertises itself as the largest and most mainstream of national immigration-control organizations. (In contrast to the American Immigration Control Foundation, a group which has also received Pioneer Fund money and tends to be more strident in its rhetoric; its president is John Vinson, who warns constantly about the "national suicide" of accepting more immigrants.)
Oltman, who not only spoke at the November 10 Phoenix press conference but also made several radio appearances over a period of weeks and seems to be a prime mover in the Arizona effort, dismisses queries about the Pioneer Fund as the desperate attempts of opponents who can't refute the merits of his claims. To Oltman, there is no confusion about his motivations:
"Almost everyone I know that's involved with this is involved because they want to preserve the country and the culture," he says in a telephone interview.
"I mean, when I see that the city of San Jose spends a couple hundred thousand dollars erecting on city property an Aztec god but they won't let Christians put up a cross at Christmastime on city property, that affects the culture.
"We're not an Aztec culture, we're a Christian culture."
Maria Sepulveda, the daughter of Chilean immigrants who works as a spokeswoman for Population-Environment Balance, detests press reports that dwell on the Pioneer Fund and its connection to FAIR and the American Immigration Control Foundation. "Most of the people who write these articles are Hispanics. Most of them take it personally. But how much of it is actual investigation and how much is just trying to hurt our mission?"
She's asked, however, whether it isn't a liability for someone concerned with immigration's effects on the environment to join forces with groups which have accepted money from questionable sources and tend to attract restrictionists with less desirable motivations. Is it worth it to consort with bigots to change immigration policy?
"I'm very concerned about what's going to be happening in my lifetime," she answers. "Whatever's going to happen with a population boom and an environmental crisis will happen in my lifetime." She worries about the impact it will have on her family and her young daughter, and she has to pause to wipe away tears, apologizing for becoming emotional.
Others are equally passionate. Wes Bramhall attended the November 10 press conference on behalf of the Tucson-based Arizonans for Immigration Reform, a group he says has a membership near 100. Bramhall says he was asked to participate in the press conference by Rick Oltman of FAIR. "A lot of us are members of FAIR, and I've been working with FAIR for a long time," he says.
The present target of Bramhall's ire is Attorney General Grant Woods, who recently criticized the Chandler Police Department and the Border Patrol for a late-July roundup of illegal immigrants. According to the AG's report, in the process of arresting 432 illegals, the Chandler police subjected Mexican-American citizens to traffic stops for no other reason than to ask for proof of their citizenship. Woods also included accounts by citizens and legal residents who claimed that police raided their homes at night, in at least one occasion on the advice of a landlord.
Bramhall acknowledges that the law prevents police from using a person's color of skin as a sole criterion for probable cause, but personally, he's perplexed. "What's wrong with using color of skin? You don't look for blonds," he says.
"They don't want to assimilate," Bramhall says of the immigrants he wants to limit. "They just want to stay in their own neighborhoods. There's a lot of them that don't want to learn our language."
Like many, Bramhall believes immigrants can refuse to assimilate. Assimilation--the pressure to learn to negotiate American institutions and obtain employment and financial stability--is an overwhelming force which so transforms newcomers that within a generation they earn wages equal to the native-born population and, often to the immigrant generation's own consternation, may lose the language of their parents.
Immigrants can control their rate of acculturation, a separate process by which immigrants choose to exchange traditions of family and gender politics, dress and other customs for American models. Not every immigrant clan, however, chooses to become entirely like the Osmond family and will retain, even after several generations, old traditions. Such is the source of American diversity that seems to worry people like Wes Bramhall.
"They're brainwashing the younger people," he says, referring to such organizations as MECHa (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan), which he admits terrify him.
Bramhall takes seriously the threats of MECHa activists--radicalized students who get to college and discover they're Chicanos--who talk breathlessly about reverting the Southwest to Mexican ownership, which was lost in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. (Mexico, meanwhile, appears indifferent to the idea.)
Bramhall is also convinced that apocalyptic waves of illegals are washing over the border. When Census Bureau estimates of Arizona migration are mentioned, Bramhall calls them crazy and claims that hundreds of thousands of illegals move to the Tucson area every year.
Perhaps confused by Border Patrol reports of 272,000 apprehensions in 1996 (which include multiple arrests of the same persons and don't count the net gain in people who stay in the state rather than go elsewhere), Bramhall is convinced that a population that would nearly double Tucson's population is settling around him every two years.
The reality is less alarming. Tom Rex, research manager at Arizona State University's Center for Business Research, citing census data, says that in the year ending in the middle of 1996, Arizona gained 13,000 people in net international migrations. In other words, 13,000 more people moved to Arizona from out of the country in that year than moved from Arizona to foreign countries. (Not surprisingly, all but a small percentage came from Mexico.)
That figure, Rex adds, includes an estimate of illegal migration, which the Census Bureau is accused of historically undercounting. But even with as large as a 20 percent error, which would raise that estimate to 15,600, such numbers are dwarfed by another: the masses of people moving to Arizona from other U.S. states, which the census put at 73,000 for the same time period.
"In the Phoenix area," he says, "it's largely a case of whoever wants to work and has any job skills at all, can."
Unemployment in the Valley has reached 20-year lows. Outside the Valley, Rex says, it's another story. "In much of Arizona, there probably is an excess of labor, but they are probably very poorly trained."
Immigrants, Rex says, are having no trouble finding work. "We're creating an awful lot of low-wage jobs here. And a lot of those jobs would go begging if we didn't have people coming in from Mexico to take them."
But more Mexicans doesn't mean that others are being pushed out, Rex asserts. Take the housing construction industry, for example, which was once dominated by young white men. When the Arizona housing industry collapsed in the early Nineties, Rex says, many of those workers left the state or moved into other fields. Now, with a new building boom, there are more jobs, but because of the aging of the baby-boom generation, demographically fewer young white men. Young Mexican men have filled the jobs.
Rex is sympathetic to concerns that Arizona's rapid growth is too great and too haphazard. But "immigration," he says, "is not the driving force behind it. Immigration is merely the response to that economic circumstance that's happening. Growth . . . has a lot of problems, but immigration is not what's driving it."
Rob Smith of the Sierra Club responds in a similar way to concerns by the environmental groups participating in the Arizona media campaign, saying that he's dubious about a link between immigration and urban sprawl.
The Sierra Club itself faces an important vote in the spring, when its 600,000 members will be asked whether the club should take a stand on immigration or remain neutral, as it has in the past. Some Sierra Club members sympathize with Maria Sepulveda and Population-Environment Balance, but Smith thinks their numbers are low. He notes that only 2,000 signatures were needed to place the referendum on the club's ballot.
Smith scoffed at print ads prepared by Negative Population Growth, which feature a photograph of pristine Arizona desert and suggest that such landscapes are disappearing to house immigrants.
"Is Scottsdale a community of immigrants? Troon?" he asks. "It's not immigrants who are moving into the McDowell Mountains. There are definitely problems with urban sprawl. But my guess is that Phoenix would continue to see problems of urban sprawl even if the border had a 30-foot-high wall.
"There are sincere environmentalists who are concerned by this issue," Smith admits, but he says that Sierra Club's focus has historically been to concentrate on population as a global, not American, problem. "If you're too narrowly focused, you aren't solving the larger problem. It's one planet Earth that we need to be concerned about and not one country."
Dudley Gibson learned that he would be emceeing the November 10 press conference 15 minutes before it happened.
A retired Phoenix police officer, Gibson says he's been a member of FAIR for six years. It was a call from FAIR's Rick Oltman, Gibson says, that prompted him to found Maricopa County Immigration Control Advocates.
Gibson says Oltman wanted a Phoenix group involved in the media campaign and offered FAIR's help to incorporate. Gibson was able to call on other local FAIR members and soon had seven or eight members.
While not a groundswell of grassroots support, that number grew after the media campaign began. Gibson recently held the group's first organizational meeting, but he wouldn't allow a New Times writer to attend.
At a first meeting, he said, such a group was likely to attract a few rednecks. "We don't want radicals in this group. We don't want racists," he says.
Gibson said the meeting went well, and the group's membership has passed 20.
Gibson's nascent group will no doubt grow, thanks in part to FAIR's boosting. But its small size indicates that from the start, this effort has been promoted by national groups.
The persuasive nature of Roy Beck's lecture on population numbers suggests that a serious debate about immigration levels can and should occur. But with organizations such as FAIR making the major push for change in Arizona, it's questionable whether such a debate could take place without descending into immigrant-bashing.
FAIR's Rick Oltman in particular sees Arizona as promising opportunity. "Look at all the bullshit [attorney] Steve Montoya is stirring up about all the arrests in Chandler. Every charge he has made has been unsubstantiated to this point. . . . He's got people involved in his lawsuit [a $35 million suit against the City of Chandler] who weren't even there," Oltman charges, apparently unaware of Attorney General Grant Woods' findings.
Oltman says he hopes he can use outrage over the Chandler incident to FAIR's advantage. "Hopefully, this will affect the broad middle class. It's like California in 1993," he says, adding that he hopes Arizonans will blame problems in schools on increasing numbers of immigrant children.
While he has no plans to push for an Arizona initiative similar to Proposition 187, the one which proved so divisive in California, Oltman doesn't count it out. His immediate plans involve resurrecting the media campaign in January in an attempt to influence Arizonans, who he'd like in turn to pressure Arizona members of Congress.
If Oltman's experiences on Phoenix talk radio are any indication, he'll continue to find an eager audience. In one of several appearances on KFYI-AM radio, Oltman found a particularly avid fan in talk-show host Bob Mohan, who reminisced about his days in Georgia.
"I can remember living in Atlanta. Our downtown just about died because of the influx of blacks that came in, blacks and Hispanics," said Mohan.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.
- Democratic "Dark Money" Group Finally Registers With Arizona
Thu., Dec. 10, 6:25pm
Fri., Dec. 11, 7:00pm
Fri., Dec. 11, 7:30pm
Fri., Dec. 11, 7:30pm
- ASU Writing Instructor Describes Her Cannabis "Overdose"
- Arizona Man Tries to Pick Up Girlfriend From Jail in Stolen Truck, Becomes Meme Fodder