The 450-seat Thomas Auditorium on the campus of Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock, NC was at least 3/4 full. White people from all over came to hear white people talk about how to have fewer brown people in our country. The two-hour "Immigration Town Hall Meeting" was paid for with your tax dollars, and I didn't hear a voice of dissent all night long. The Taylor for Congress team was there shooting footage for advertisements both during and after the event - call it government subsidized campaigning.
Press Secretary Deborah Potter came up to me, and though we'd never met, said, "Screwy, how are you. You lambasted me...". Ms. Potter was very nice, some might say flirtatious. She couldn't keep her eyes off of me for the first half-hour of the show, and she later told me, "behave yourself" after giggling at the famed Hooligan wit. See this dramatized video capture of Ms. Potter striding into the meeting.
Due to security concerns, Hooligans were unable to videotape the public meeting. There were no real security concerns, of course, but if you want to get this crowd to do what you want, appeal to their fears. There were nametags and sign-in sheets and fancy handouts from Asheville's own Action Club, which I'll intersperse through this post in italics. The head of a group called Americans for Legal Immigration, William Gheen, introduced the Congressman Tancredo and Congressman Taylor by whipping the crowd up into an anti-immigrant frenzy, giving his heartfelt thanks for their service to the cause, and attacking the "aggressive, unscrupulous opposition".
"Article IV of the U.S. Constitution requires the federal government to protect us from invasion. Sadly, President Bush and many Congressmen have chosen to ignore the invasion across our southern border and open the doors to more reconquista-minded illegal aliens."
Everyone attending was encouraged to write their name, address, phone number, email address, and a question on a slip of paper. The information went into the cardboard box marked "Questions". An ivory-coated "Legislative Aide" named Larry went through the questions and offered his choices to the moderator, a local talk radio personality. Call-in questions were also allowed, and people were phoned at their homes to ask if they wanted to ask a question. The phone-in questions were also read by the moderator.
For an idea of what kinds of questions were allowed, here's a sampling:
"Why should immigrants get free health care?"
"What can we do to stop illegal immigration?"
"Why don't public entities turn in illegals?"
"Wouldn't it solve the problem just to let more people in legally?"
"Is it likely we'll see any immigration reform before the election?"
"We take the right to vote away from felons, so why can't we take away the right to vote for people who hire illegal aliens?"
"Would you deputize the Minutemen?"
"Why do so many people come and break immigration laws?"
My question was not answered. But we were assured that all the questions would be answered by email or letter. Here's the question I asked, "Tom Tancredo is endorsed by Stormfront, The Ku Klux Klan, and Vanguard for President in 2008. Why do so many white supremacists agree with your shared position on immigration reform?"
"A blanket amnesty...would legalize drug dealers, gang members, slave masters, and terrorists living here illegally! [...] There's nothing compassionate or Christian about giving up the war on drugs or tolerating modern-day slavery."
Charles Taylor warned the crowd that, if left unchecked, current immigration policy would mean "A billion people living in America by the end of the century. I don't know anybody who'd want that."
Representative Taylor also discussed the best types of fences, two with a truck lane between them and technology, and he also pointed out his worry about people digging under. He said there ought to be no reward for lawbreaking, unless you're a U.S. Congressman. He didn't really say that, but I thought it all night long.
Tancredo stumbled at one point when explaining that HR4437, the House of Representative's draconian measure with no companion Senate Bill, would start fence building right away, "We've waived environmental requirements...uh...I mean obstacles".
Outside, I struck up a conversation with William Gheen, the head of ALI. He was quick to talk about all the immigrant child molesters on the streets and about the "Aztlan Nationalist" forces seeking to take America back for Mexico. His lackey had been sitting in front of me inside but didn't give any indication he would tell his boss about the snarky comments I'd been making for the last thirty minutes. Gheen said his website (www.alipac.us) gets 50,000 page views a day (9-16 page views per visit). Later I would meet Gheen again.
Tancredo talked about "sanctuary cities", where illegals could be safer from the authorities. He decried the "cult of multiculturalism". "I'm Italian. I enjoy my Italian heritage", but Tancredo didn't want to "put down our own identity" because immigrants are somehow forcing him. He said that the Rule of Law is unique to Western Civilization.
Taylor discussed speeding visa applications by privatizing the immigration process, "Government could screw up a one-car funeral". Then the Congressman alarmed the audience by flashing his driver's license. Once the shock of thinking about Taylor behind the wheel of a car wore off, I heard him talk about putting fingerprints and DNA strands into identification cards that local police could scan to determine someone's legal status.
Taylor went on to advocate for a quota system in deciding who gets to immigrate to the U.S. He asserted that there was such a system "a hundred years ago". Taylor went on, "We tried to get a situation where you could have a quota for people around the world". Taylor also mentioned having skills-based quotas to measure prospective immigrants' worth.
Tancredo warned that, in some areas, ne'erdowells are "handing out green cards for sex."
"public school teachers stuggle to communicate with the children of illegal aliens while trying to give a solid education to American students: Not an easy task! Sick Americans wait hours in hospital emergency rooms while frustrated doctors and nurses try to diagnose illegal aliens who can't communicate."
The two Congressmen railed against the conventional interpretation of the 14th amendment. Tancredo called it an "idiotic interpretation" that makes people born in this country automatic citizens when the real meaning is that only people "under the jurisdiction" of the laws, meaning documented immigrants, are Constitutionally eligible for citizenship.
My selection for marquis quote of the night came from Congressman Charles Taylor, "It should be illegal to go into another country and profit from that."
Tancredo praised the work of the Minutemen on the U.S./Mexico border, "Every single one of them American heroes", "John and Jane Q citizen". Tancredo said he would not be opposed to deputizing Minutemen. Tancredo described the border as "the most rugged terrain in the world." He laughed along with the audience about how illegals ought to be greeted, "Hey! Welcome to America! Spread 'em!"
Charles Taylor reported that, in a letter to President Bush, he asked him to "send troops to the border", "invite the Minutemen to the Whitehouse and commend them for their service".
About an hour and a half was all I could stomach, so I went back out front where Mr. Gheen was waiting on me, "You didn't tell me you're a blogger!". Gheen then went into persuasion mode, captured on video by a johnny-on-the-spot Photoshop Guru. He asked if I thought the laws should be enforced, and I brought up Congress' efforts to make Bush's FISA lawbreaking legal. I brought up the white supremacist movement's affinity for his cause, and he talked about the vicious illegal alien extremist groups. I brought up the contract awarded to Halliburton to build prisons in the event of an "immigration emergency", and he argued about the wording. He did not respond to my inquiries about whether he'd like to see 12 million immigrants detained in Halliburton prisons.
I waited a little longer, and folks started spilling out of the meeting. A long-legged, pancake make-up, methamphetamine-eyed Ann Coulter impersonator was being pimped by a curly-haired Tancredo fan. Hundreds of old, white people poured as I held the door and thanked them for coming, wishing several "buenos noches" and "vaya con dios".
This immigration movement is built on fear and anger. Its racist underpinnings are there everywhere you look. I don't think that most of the people at the meeting would identify themselves as racists, but I'd be shocked to find any of them spending time in diverse cultures or befriending minorities. They're scared of the Mexicans and ready to make them all felons - drive them out of this country.
Congressman Charles Taylor, lacking a homo-loving abortionist liberal to run against, is rallying the radical right with the brown menace invading our nation, raping our daughters, selling our grandsons drugs, taking our jobs, stealing our health care, robbing our education budget, and terrorizing our citizens.
It was a poisonous night in Flat Rock, and most everyone who attended was thrilled to take the snakebite.