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Apr 12, 2006 | 22:09 GMT

3 mins read

The Immigration Issue as a White Supremacist Recruiting Tool

The recent immigration debate drew attention from all quarters of U.S. society — including white supremacists, whose chat rooms are abuzz with anti-immigration sentiment directed especially against illegal Mexican and other Latin American immigrants. White supremacist groups such as the National Vanguard and the National Socialist Movement hope to use the immigration issue as a public relations and recruiting tool. Using a method similar to the "loss leader" sales technique, these groups hope to gain new sympathizers' attention and then "educate" them about what the groups consider the real threat: Jews. According to their chat room and blog discussions, white supremacist groups ultimately blame Jewish interests in the U.S. government for an immigration policy they consider harmful to the white race. The immigration policy is only part of what the white supremacists consider an overall scheme by Jewish interests to dominate the United States and use other races, such as blacks and Hispanics, to undermine the "Aryan" white race. Though the white supremacists' message does not seem to be much different from what it was before the immigration issue's resurgence, their target audience has changed. The recent debate has given them an opportunity to spread their message to a more mainstream audience by appealing to the fears and animosities of individuals who feel threatened by illegal immigrants — those who compete with illegal immigrants economically and those who are alarmed by the increasing numbers of Hispanic people in their communities. This is in line with white supremacists' new strategy of trying to appeal to a broader audience. Previously, radical elements of the various white supremacist groups participated in violent acts, including firebombings, beatings and murders of minority targets. As a result, law enforcement took deliberate action against them, jailing many white supremacist leaders and shutting down several groups. The USA PATRIOT Act greatly aided this crackdown. White supremacist groups have since learned from these experiences and are trying to continue their activities more subtly. Part of this involves splitting into smaller ad hoc cells that exist more in online chat rooms than in actual physical compounds or meeting places. Also, rather than perpetrating violent acts that alienate many mainstream Americans, white supremacists have been trying to clean up their act and appeal to a broader audience. Using this strategy, white supremacist groups hope to at least sustain their numbers and gain converts to their cause. Members of law enforcement or military organizations are considered especially valuable recruits, mainly as counterintelligence assets and potential sources of knowledge and training. White supremacist groups will definitely use the immigration issue to appeal to that demographic. This new strategy means that while lone wolves frustrated with the mainstream approach could launch attacks, white supremacist groups are unlikely to organize direct attacks against immigration demonstrations or immigrants themselves. However, it would serve the white supremacists' interests to provoke attacks by pro-immigration groups; such attacks would depict the white supremacists as victims and immigrants as dangerous and violent. This kind of provocation likely would take the form of counterdemonstrations designed to enflame the passions of illegal immigrants and their sympathizers. The immigration debate is very visible; the white supremacist effort to quietly exploit the issue and gain converts is a little-noticed part of it.

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