No one paid much attention to the website, Internet postings, or letters penned by the members of the fledgling anti-immigration organization. Indeed, in the few years since its inception, Vietnamese for Fair Immigration could hardly make its presence known, receiving only minor coverage from anti-immigration maven Michelle Malkin1 and a few posts published on the extremist website VDare, best known for its racially charged nativist rhetoric. That was until it decided to put up a billboard on one of Berkley's busiest intersections proclaiming that providing "amnesty" to undocumented immigrants was an act of racism. Immediately, the "No Racist Amnesty" billboard not only attracted attention, but also raised questions as to who was this group of Vietnamese refugees.
According to their website launched three years ago (9-03-2003), the group was founded by Vietnamese-Americans who felt that the current immigration laws favored Latinos and, more importantly, that any change that allowed for legalization of current undocumented immigrants further discriminates against Asians in general and Vietnamese in particular. Co-founder, LeQuan Hoang put it quite simply: "They can just cross the border. We cannot swim across the ocean." 2
But things are not quite that simple.
As it turns out, as with some other recently formed ethnically-oriented anti-immigration groups, the driving force behind the group is not in fact a Vietnamese-American, but rather a local Caucasian businessman. As reporter Michele R. Marcucci notes:
The Lompoc-based group [VFI], which has endorsed political candidates, written letters to the editors of newspapers and has aired its views on Web sites, was co-founded [with LeQuang Hoang] by a white, Southern California cyclemaker who is also a member of one of the state's most prominent immigration control organizations.
In fact, the group's self-proclaimed Vietnamese-American spokesman, who wrote at least one of the letters and has espoused the group's views on several Web sites, is the group's Caucasian co-founder using a Vietnamese surname, his wife said.
The spokesman, who called himself Tim Binh, initially denied that he was the cyclemaker from Lompoc, Tim Brummer. But after a reporter told him his wife identified him as Brummer, he said it was her idea.
And he feels he used the name legitimately, adding that he may make Tim Binh his legal name.
"I speak Vietnamese.
I eat Vietnamese food.
I live with Vietnamese.
In my mind, I'm half Vietnamese."
As the immigration debate heats up, an increasing number of grassroots groups claiming to be efforts of non-whites advocating for increased restrictions and controls on illegal immigration have been formed. But increasingly, these groups claiming to represent Blacks, Latinos and other ethnic groups opposed to comprehensive immigration reform have turned out to be little more than thinly-veiled attempts by mostly white anti-immigration groups to mask themselves in a cloak of diversity. And, in some cases the groups have been funded or founded by established, predominately white, anti-immigration organizations that actively recruit minorities to put a diverse face on their movement.
According to Mark Potok, who has tracked such groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center, these front organizations have become more common "because the (immigration control) movement is overwhelmingly white, there's a great desire to throw off the accusations of racism, and the easier way to do that is to have groups that are not white. I think that is what is going on in many, many cases."
Meet Tim Binh
Over the years, "Tim Binh" has riled against "anchor babies" stating that such "children of occupying aliens should not be US citizens. I would have to say 10 million illegal aliens that cost Americans $300 billion a year, that kill thousands of Americans, that sicken millions of Americans, and that trash our environment, are a hostile alien occupation." He has opposed providing driver licenses to the undocumented, and explained why he believes Mexican immigrants have no respect for the law, arguing that "in Mexican culture, laws are made to be broken."
It's not surprising that the views expressed by Tim Bihn (Brummer), co-founder of Vietnamese for Fair Immigration, so closely align with those of the anti-immigration far-right. Since March of 2005 he posted over 2600 comments on the Internet forum of the anti-immigration organization Save Our State which has been linked to various white supremacists and white nationalist organizations. As a member of Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), which advocates for strict immigration controls, his opinions and rhetoric are quite common within the restrictionist groups and anti-immigration organizations to which he belongs. The Santa Barbara-based CAPS is one of 13 groups founded or funded by anti-immigration kingpin, John Tanton. Like other Tanton groups, CAPS claims that immigration-driven population increases are hurting the environment and causing overcrowded schools, traffic and an overburdened health care system.
In an early interview, Brummer -- who identified himself as Vietnamese for Immigration Reform's spokesman, Tim Binh -- said the group was created two years ago by Vietnamese refugees who have been frustrated in their efforts to bring relatives to the U.S. through legal channels.
He said the group's members feel illegal immigration and amnesties granted to onetime illegal immigrants are to blame for the long waits. And they feel the system favors Latino immigrants over everyone else, he said, pointing to numbers that show that more Latinos immigrate here than anyone else.
"The politicians, we call them up, they don't listen to us. So we put our billboards up," he said. "They just want Hispanics, it seems. So we thought the American people should know."
Although Binh/Brummer presents himself as an immigration-rights activist, his group's positions are quite clearly not those of other immigrant rights groups. According to VDAR's description of Vietnamese for Fair Immigration:
(What his group insists) on is a fair US immigration policy--not one generous and all-forgiving policy for Mexico and another different policy for everyone else that rigidly enforces existing immigration laws.
Among them are:
Enforce all immigration laws. Illegal aliens residing inside the U.S. should be deported. Businesses should be required to check the validity of new employees' Social Security or work permit numbers.
Local and state law enforcement officers should verify the citizenship and immigration status of everyone they apprehend. Every illegal alien they apprehend should be detained and transferred to the Homeland Security Departments ICE division for deportation.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement should double the number of interior enforcement officers and detention facilities.
Children born to illegal aliens and guest workers in the U.S. should not be given U.S. citizenship. The U.S. is totally out of step with the rest of the world in this regard.
The U.S. should not allow amnestied illegal aliens, anchor babies, and anyone sponsored by both groups to sponsor any more of their relatives for family preference immigration.
But, Brummer's group is not the first to try to put an ethnic face on the predominately white anti-immigration movement.
The Minutemen's Rainbow Coalition
The Minutemen have been actively recruiting Black and Latino members. The few that have joined are being prominently featured media events and rallies. Perpetual candidate and far-right pundit, Alan Keyes, has joined the group and often speaks at rallies donning a strange mix of street bling and country-western wear including a black cowboy hat. Ted Hayes, a black minuteman activist, started his own anti-immigration spin-off group earlier this year, the Crispus Attucks Brigade, named after a black man who was first person killed in the Boston Massacre.
Earlier this year Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrist intentionally chose a black Los Angeles neighborhood in hopes of attracting more diversity to his cause when he launched his ill-fated cross-country tour from LA to Washington:
....when Minuteman Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist kicked off his group's cross-country caravan to Washington, D.C., last May 3, he picked Leimert Park, a mostly black Los Angeles neighborhood, as the caravan's rallying point. Gilchrist brought out the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, African-American head of the right-wing, Christian fundamentalist Brotherhood Organization for a New Destiny, along with Ted Hayes, the black homeless advocate, to back him up.
The rally was supposed to be an invitation to Minuteman discipleship, but it didn't end in benediction. Faced by dozens of African-Americans calling Gilchrist a racist and labeling his black associates as "Sambos," Gilchrist dropped the friendly face. "Minutemen, stand your ground," he barked. Then, referring to a man leading chants against his followers, Gilchrist added, "If it's war he wants, then let it begin here," according to the Los Angeles Times.
"We confronted them and chased them out of our community with that racist nonsense," says Najee Ali, president of the Islamic H.O.P.E. civil rights organization in Los Angeles. "We wanted to let them know that they are not welcome in our community and we were offended they chose that as their departure point."
Ali's May confrontation with the Minutemen was neither his first nor his last. Throughout the summer Ali hosted a number of forums on black and Latino community relationships. They were sponsored in part by the Latino and African American Leadership Alliance, which lists as co-chairs Ali, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Christine Chavez, granddaughter of union activist César Chavez. Minutemen, both black and white, showed up to heckle panel members -- including California state assemblymen and Los Angeles City Council members -- and to intimidate the audience.
...Hard evidence shows it is the black Minutemen, however, who don't represent mainstream black thought on the topic of immigration. Several major polls show that most African Americans favor the U.S. Senate's Kennedy-McCain bill, which would allow many undocumented workers to stay in America and eventually earn citizenship. Most mainstream civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Urban League, have come out in support of Latino immigrants.
FAIR looks for cover in diversity
Despite overwhelming evidence that most minorities find little in common with the anti-immigration cause, advocacy groups like John Tanton's Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) have started groups claiming to represent both Blacks and Hispanics.
On May 1st, 2006, millions of immigrants and their supporters took to the streets in cities all over the country to voice their opposition to the "enforcement only" House legislation that would have criminalized 12 million undocumented immigrants. As the multitudes assembled in their various staging areas dressed in white shirts and carrying banners and flags, in a conference room in Washington a different kind of immigration advocacy group was announcing its creation. This group was also made up predominately of Hispanics, only their agenda was in direct opposition to the activity taking place in the streets down below. The founders of You Don't Speak For Me came to the National Press Club to announce that despite what might appear on the TV screens that day, not all Latinos supported the marchers.
But there was one thing Col. Al Rodriguez, the founder of the group, and the other members of the group forgot to mention later that day as they made their rounds of media appearances including those on FOX and Lou Dobbs. This group of concerned citizens of Latino descent did not spring solely from minds of its participants, it was midwifed in its birth by the nation's preeminent anti-immigration cabal; the Tanton organization.
According to the You Don't Speak For Me website, the group is the brainchild of Col. Al Roriguez, a highly-decorated Vietnam War veteran:
You Don't Speak for Me formed when Col. Al Rodriguez became fed up watching media coverage of the mass protests of April. "Their leaders were saying it was a march for immigrant rights and a Latino/Hispanic movement," says Rodriguez. "I thought to myself, 'Hey, those are illegal aliens, not immigrants!'" Col. Rodriguez began speaking out to others saying, "I'm of Hispanic ancestry and those people are acting like they speak for me. Well, you don't speak for me!"
Col. Rodriguez began asking others to help him reach more people who felt the same way and You Don't Speak for Me formed from this loose coalition of individuals. It is a group of concerned Americans of Hispanic/Latino heritage, some first or second generation, others recent legal immigrants, who believe illegal immigration harms America and a guest worker amnesty will do the same.
YDSFM! Officers are:
Col. Al Rodriguez, Chairman
Mariann Davies, Vice Chair
Claudia Spencer, Vice Chair
Justin Rangel, Vice Chair
Maria Chojnowski, Vice Chair
You Don't Speak For Me
Nowhere on the website or in any of Col. Rodriguez's interviews with cable news is any mention made about the Tanton organization's association with You Don't Speak For Me. Oddly, however, the contact information given on the press page of the website lists Ira Mehlman and Susan Wysoki as the primary contacts for the group. Both Mehlman and Wysoki have e-mail addresses at fairus.org, the web address for Tanton's flagship organization, The Federation for American Immigration Reform. CSpan, to its credit, did note the organization's ties to FAIR when it broadcast the news conference earlier in the day.
Given the Tanton connections, it is not surprising that Mehlman is also the driving force behind Choose Black America (CBA), an organization supposedly created by Blacks who felt illegal immigration was hurting their communities.
In May of 2006, the formation of CBA was announced at a FAIR-sponsored press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C, but to date, that press conference was the first and last time the leadership of the group met together. It appears to exist solely as website and a public relations vehicle similar to other FAIR sponsored groups such as the Coalition for the Future of the American Worker, which claims to be a coalition of blue-collar groups, and Col. Rodriquez's, You Don't Speak for Me.
CBA is billed as a "coalition of business, academic and community leaders" who believe that "Blacks, in particular, have lost economic opportunities, seen their kids' schools flooded with non-English speaking students, and felt the socio-economic damage of illegal immigration more acutely than any other group." It's portrayed as a grassroots organization, but it hardly sprang from the community. Tiny type at the bottom of CBA's home page reads, "A project of FAIR."
Five of the 11 founding members of CBA were interviewed for this article. All but one said they had no idea who the other individuals in their "coalition" were before they arrived in D.C. for the press conference. James Clingman, a Cincinnati columnist and businessman, said that if he had known, he would have never shown up. "Choose Black America was just the banner under which we had a press conference," says Clingman, who writes on economics. "There are people involved [in CBA] who I am just diametrically opposed to, like [far-right Christian evangelical] Jesse Lee Peterson and those other neo-conservative, black so-called leaders."
Clingman says that with the exception of his personal friend, Claud Anderson, he has had no contact with any of the other CBA founders or with FAIR since the press conference. According to the rest of the CBA founders interviewed, there have been no meetings, no phone calls, and no other organizational advances since May.
Despite the efforts of FAIR, the Minutemen, and "Tim Binh," neither the minorities supposedly represented by these groups nor the general public are easily fooled by these kind of front groups. One need only see Tom Tancredo with his "America is Full" tee-shirt, hear him call Miami a "third world country," watch him lobbying against sending funds to New Orleans after Katrina, or hear him call for the nuking of Mecca to know what's truly in his heart. One need only hear Pat Buchanan complain about America losing its "White Christian" identity to know what he truly is espousing.
All the fake advocacy groups in the world and attempts to paint a diverse face on the movement these men lead cannot fool the American people... Americans know what these men advocate and what those who follow them desire....and diversity it ain't.
1Michelle Malkin's The Immigration Blog includes Vietnamese for Fair Immigration in its "Links" section.
2 Michele R. Marcucci first reports LeQuan Hoang making this statement in her 12-04-2006 "Immigration group may not be what they seem" in the San Mateo County Times
About the Author: Duke Falconer is editor and founding member of Migra Matters: Progressive Immigration Reform; a researcher-writer for DowningStreetMemo.com and founding member of IraqFact Working Group
Image credit: Michele R. Marcucci, STAFF WRITER, la.indymedia.org
Other ePluribus Contributors and Fact Checkers: JeninRI, avahome, wanderindiana, roxy, standingup, cho
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