(MintPress) — A recent report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), indicates a sharp rise in the number of immigrants, both legal and illegal, killed along the U.S.-Mexico border. The report by the non-profit civil rights organization connects the escalation in violence to the rise of neo-Nazi vigilante groups and ultra-right wing nationalist organizations […]
(MintPress) — A recent report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), indicates a sharp rise in the number of immigrants, both legal and illegal, killed along the U.S.-Mexico border. The report by the non-profit civil rights organization connects the escalation in violence to the rise of neo-Nazi vigilante groups and ultra-right wing nationalist organizations responsible for killing those attempting illegal border crossings. There are more than 1,000 active neo-Nazi groups operating throughout the U.S.
The spate of armed attacks, including the murder of two immigrants in April, has contributed to an increasingly hostile environment for undocumented immigrants, a climate which has inspired discriminatory legislation that many legal experts believe threatens the freedoms of Latino-Americans and other immigrant groups.
Illegal immigration and the rise of vigilante border patrols
Because of stricter border patrol by U.S. authorities, immigrants attempting to enter the country have been forced to undertake more dangerous crossings through the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. As a result, the number dying from dehydration and starvation has climbed significantly in recent years, as the U.S. border patrol reports an average of 223 corpses recovered along the border 2004-2011.
Immigrants from Latin America often come to the U.S. to reunite with family members and to escape conditions of extreme poverty. The movement of capital from the U.S. to Mexico has had an immense, measurable impact on the economy of Mexico as well.
The wire transfers from Mexicans working in the U.S. reached a record $12 billion in 2003, outstripping oil sales, tourism, and foreign investment combined. According to former Mexican President Vicente Fox this has helped many Mexican families while also improving the overall economy.
Escalating border violence associated with drug cartels has prompted many living in dangerous areas to flee conditions of violence. For example, residents living in the border city of Juarez, Mexico, where fleeing from a city with the highest murder rate in the world has become an increasingly popular decision.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimates that for the fiscal year 2011, 327,577 migrants attempted to cross the border — a decrease of more than 60 percent from the 858,638 who made the attempt in 2007.
The numbers of them killed, however, has remained consistent, as sporadic attacks by armed militias continue. Part of the reason for the decline in illegal border crossings is attributable to the poor state of the U.S. economy. However, some immigration experts contend that the surge of confrontational, sometimes violent groups patrolling the border has scared would-be immigrants from attempting the dangerous crossing.
Other more moderate groups including the Minuteman Project patrol borders in an effort to keep undocumented immigrants from entering the country illegally. There have been no confirmed incidents of the group using violence to stop undocumented immigrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
The “multi-ethnic immigration law advocacy group” was founded in 2004. Since its inception, the group has received the support of many conservative Republicans including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and talk show host Sean Hannity, among others.
However, a bevy of radical spin-off groups bearing the “Minuteman” name have sprung up, many promoting more violent tactics to thwart illegal immigration. Group members have been known to advocate for their cause at tea party rallies in an effort to recruit allies who may be sympathetic to their cause.
Matt Browning, a retired Mesa police detective who has spent much of his career studying and infiltrating border patrol militias comments on this situation, saying:
“In Arizona, we might not have Hammerskins or Volksfront or the Klan. What we do have is a lot of angry, militant white men on the border sitting like hunters waiting for these people to come across.”
The line between these groups may be minimal or non-existent as other experts now believe. Heidi Beirich, the Intelligence Project Director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, wrote in 2011 about the “hybridization” of some tea party groups with radical anti-immigrant militias, saying:
“Many nativist activists expanded their alliances with other far-right political movements, a trend that first began to take shape in 2009. In the past year, major nativist leaders have allied their organizations with antigovernment ‘Patriot’ groups or fringe tea party factions. In some cases, they have created new far-right hybrid entities of their own.”
The increasingly xenophobic policies coupled with the rise of radical border militias has produced what many terrorism experts believe is the most pressing security threat facing the United States: Homegrown nativist terrorism against immigrants and minority groups.
White supremacy and homegrown terrorism
Indeed, there has been a spike in right-wing nationalist attacks in 2012, including a shooting last month at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. The attacker, Wade Michael Page, opened fire on innocent worshippers at the temple, killing six and wounding four others, including a responding police officer. The shooter committed suicide before his capture. However, later investigations show that the shooter had known ties to neo-Nazi white supremacist groups.
The following day, an unknown assailant set fire to a mosque in Joplin, Mo. There were no injuries reported in the arson. However, the attack was the second time the mosque in Joplin has been destroyed.
The difference between hate groups and militant border patrols may be minimal, as experts believe that there is significant overlap in the ideology of neo-nazis and the nationalist militias.
Khaled A. Baydoun, Critical Race Studies Teaching Fellow at the UCLA School of Law, contends that this growing threat has become the “new face of terrorism,” in a recent Al Jazeera op-ed, writing,
“In the American imagination there is a one-dimensional portrait of terrorism – one that adorns turbans, beards, and brown skin. However, white terrorism, driven by racial supremacy and xenophobia, should rank as the greatest threat to national security in America today.”
Baydoun continues, adding, “The recent attack in Oak Creek, and the mosque burnings across the country are evidence that white supremacy is far more than merely a veiled threat, but a realised one.”
This is confirmed by reports showing a sharp increase in the number of hate groups across the U.S. today. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reports that there are now 1,018 known hate groups across the U.S., a dramatic increase prompted in part by an influx of non-white immigrants. According to the SPLC website:
“Since 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 69 percent. This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president.”