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It's time to face what's happening in America: Understanding the white supremacist movement

On September 5th I delivered comments to the Golden Valley City Council regarding the rise of white supremacy in America and their current policy agenda. This was given in the context of a larger discussion about adopting policy (outlined by the ACLU) to ensure safe, fair policing of undocumented people, an ongoing discussion spearheaded by Golden Valley People Power and supported by myself. My comments were intended to supply more information, and perhaps a bigger picture, because I believe we are all participating in history at this moment. They have a serious decision ahead of them, and I am grateful that they have invited the public into the decision-making process.

UPDATE: Golden Valley police adopted new policy as a result of these talks, and the City of Golden Valley also wrote a Welcome Statement.

President's Trump's initiatives, from his first Executive Order, to the little-known-about act that doubled immigration paperwork in August, is a direct advancement of White Supremacist policy. There is a feeling of disbelief, of not quite putting the pieces together, of knowing something is wrong but not quite believing it among many. Each act of the administration, despite clear precedent and clear objective, still seems to come as a shocking surprise. And with good reason: Although clear on the campaign trail, Mr. Trump as President can now be extremely obtuse about his objectives. He uses rhetoric about his "great love" for immigrant people to soften and keep things confusing. Sessions reassures that immigration policy is not about racism or disrespect. Another reason is that the Alt Right is very strategic and plays things close to the vest. Everyone in the Alt Right will know that Trump rhetoric "take our country back" is a white supremacist slogan and that he is signalling to them. But very few others do because of their quiet tactics. It is time for Americans of conscious to study the facts and gain clarity about this time in our history. Once we understand it in full, our surprise and shock stops. Our resolve, our power, and our decisions become clear.


History and Context: Why is this Issue at Your Doorstep?

Between 1860 and 1920, immigrants came here mostly from Europe, fluctuating between 13% and nearly 15% of the total population. Restrictive immigration legislation in 1921 and 1924, coupled with the Great Depression and World War II, led to a sharp drop in new arrivals. As a result, the foreign-born share steadily reached a record low of approximately 5% in 1970.

However, in 1965, Democrats in Congress passed the Immigration Act, abolishing an earlier quota system based on national origin and establishing a new immigration policy based on reuniting immigrant families and attracting skilled labor. This marked the end of an unofficial policy of favoring white immigration. Instead of originating in Europe, immigrants entering the United States came increasingly from countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the immigration population share rose again to roughly 14%, where it remains.

Today we are at a demographic crossroads in America that has brought this country into crisis. In 2055, to put it bluntly, white people will no longer be the majority, and the largest contributor to this is immigration. Demographic shifts, along with resources and technology, have always been the driver of political movements, and this period is no different.

For the past few decades, Immigration has been the first and foremost issue among the Alt Right and White Supremacist movements, and in November of 2016, those movements elected a man named Donald J. Trump to office. From his stance as the founder of the Birther Movement, he had steadily been gathering followers and allies, receiving large donations from border patrol and immigration official unions and others. He launched his campaign, broadcasting the promises of the Alt Right, and using time-honored fear tactics and falsehoods to fuel his run at the White House. At an August rally in Arizona, he stated:

… Countless Americans who have died in recent years would be alive today if not for the open border policies of this administration and the administration that causes this horrible, horrible thought process, called Hillary Clinton… Most illegal immigrants are lower skilled workers ..who..draw much more out from the system than they can ever possibly pay back… The result [of her presidency] will be millions more illegal immigrants; thousands of more violent, horrible crimes; and total chaos and lawlessness. That's what's going to happen, as sure as you're standing there. We're going to take our country back, folks. This is a movement. We're going to take our country back.

I won't counter with the specific crime rate data of immigrants, by now you all have it; the general knowledge that the undocumented population is less likely to commit crimes than citizenry, that 30% (some say more) have a college education (in 2010-2015, in 26 states, immigrants were better educated than citizens) that they in fact pay taxes (unless their employer chooses to violate the law) but can never collect social security so are actually paying in more than they take out, that they register for the draft etc. I won't talk about contributions to society etc. I won’t lay out all the data because most of you are already aware that we have a president that lies daily as a part of his tactics. I will, however, make you aware of something you may not have known: That “Take our country back” is the slogan of the Alt Right and the Klan. That this is coded language for that audience.

Recently David Duke gave his comments on the alt-right and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. “We are determined to take our country back,” Duke said from the rally, calling it a “turning point.” “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.” Yes, you're reading that correctly: Charlottesville was seen as a galvanizing turning point, a kick off of sorts, for many in our country.

In our discussions with you’re a presentations, we have tip-toed around why we feel this issue is so urgent, and why we feel an increasing, growing threat and urgency to act. But I’ll put it plainly, the immigration issue is a white nationalism issue, and it is growing in its scope, in it’s terrorizing of undocumented people daily, with no signs of an effective stopgap.

I’d like you to listen next to this comment on an Alt Right message board:

Don’t get trapped in an echo chamber where you can no longer related to normies. Pretending that Charlottesville didn’t push the average white person away is really stupid. We have a chance to actually make changes now that Trump [is in office] but we need to be smart and make the movement appealing to the AVERAGE white person...There’s no way to lose public support quicker than going around making Nazi salutes and holding Wiki torches..Build a populist movement with incremental overt goals. Repeal the 1965 Immigration Act and replace it with something that both limits total immigration and prioritizes white immigration. Keep the long-term goals covert and don’t ever reveal your power. Talking openly about a white ethnostate only leads to failure, so disavow anyone who reveals his power level. Leftists will recognize dog whistles, but normies won’t listen to them.

This man is more subtle than Trump, but listen to what they are counting on: "Normies" (meaning complacent white people, of which there are many) doing nothing. Normies not listening. Lefties (whoever that is) being ignored. And a covert agenda that prioritizes white immigration and reverses the 1965 Immigration Act getting through quietly and incrementally.

In summary, white supremacism in 2017 is not about Jim Crow or voting, it’s about immigration, and it is the #1 agenda item of white supremacist terrorist groups. We like to think that this type of person is the exception, but this election broke one of their key tactics: it revealed their power. We can no longer claim not to know that this is a ferocious and very strong force in America, capable of amassing huge amounts of money, launching its own media machine, and galvanizing millions of Americans.

Let’s look at what this movement has accomplished with Trump at the helm:

Anti-immigrant Actions of this Administration Since 1/20/2017:

  • A report by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement states that between January 29 and April 22, 2017 the number of non-criminal undocumented people arrested more than doubled, going “from approximately 4,200 in 2016 to more than 10,800 in 2017.” That’s roughly 400 arrests per day of non-criminal, law abiding residents with a simple civil violation. An ICE memo directs staff to go after all undocumented people, regardless of criminal activity.

  • The report shows that the biggest spike is the arrests of immigrants with no criminal activity.

  • Under President Donald Trump's new immigration policies, some are getting arrested on the spot during check-ins with officers. Undocumented residents have been arrested while dropping off their children at school, and in several cases, while in the act of applying for green cards. Spaces previously treated as safe areas for undocumented residents have also become sites of immigration enforcement In February, an undocumented woman was arrested by agents in a Texas courthouse as she was seeking an order of protection for domestic abuse

  • In May: Texas passes SB4 into law, permitting police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect to be in the country without authorization.

  • In June: The House passed “Kate’s Law” (stiffer sentences for those re-entering the country illegally) and cracked down on “sanctuary cities”

  • Also in June: A bill to lower hiring standards for border patrol staffing, called the “boots on the border act”, passed the house. If it passes the Senate it will add thousands more potentially unethical, un-vetted border patrol agents on the front line.

  • August: The Trump administration created new obstacles for legal immigrants, increasing the load of paperwork for immigration applications by double, triple or more. The new forms have complex and vague questions, which will result in mistakes with devastating consequences and will cost immigrants thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees to complete.

  • Also in August: Trump added an extra hurdle for green cards, which is an in-person interview step. The new policy will go into effect on October 1.

  • The RAISE ACT: Bill sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, was introduced to cut legal immigration by 41% in first year, 50% in second year. Would institute a merit-based system to determine who is admitted to the country and granted legal residency, favoring applicants based on skills, education and English language ability, rather than relations with people already here. This deliberately favors white, English speaking immigrants.

  • August: During recent disaster, hurricane Harvey, U.S Customs and Border patrol, in an unprecedented move, announced it would be keeping its checkpoints operational. Lorella Praeli, American Civil Liberties Union director of immigration policy and campaigns, said: “By keeping checkpoints open, the Border Patrol is putting undocumented people and mixed-status families at risk out of fear of deportations…This is a disgusting move from the Border Patrol that breaks with past practices. The Border Patrol should never keep checkpoints open during any natural disasters in the United States.

  • Yesterday it broke that the President wants to end DACA protections for people brought here as children, people who many times know no other country, and which will impact 800,000 residents.

  • In the Fall Congress discusses funds for the Border Wall

  • Also in the Fall the Supreme Court will again revisit Trump's Travel Ban, which many think has been stopped. There are in fact pieces of it that are in effect and it will be revisited by the court in the Fall. With a new Supreme Court nominee, we may find a different outcome.

Let’s not make any mistake about this, what is going on right now is a deliberate, targeted campaign undocumented people, and the reasons are not security, they are white nationalism.

The Effect on Undocumented People

Every person who works with undocumented people knows this has been a time of stress, anxiety and outright terror among undocumented people, regardless of whether they are law-abiding, bring in six figures, and have lawyers or not. Reports show:

  • A sharp drop in reports of sexual assaults and other crimes by undocumented people

  • 44% Latinos surveyed from major cities said they were unlikely to contact police if they are targets of a crime. 45% of the same participants also indicated that they were unlikely to report a crime when not the victims. That number shoots up to about 70% of undocumented Latino immigrants who indicated that they would neither file a police report for being a victim nor for being a witness. Daan Satterberg, top prosecutor in Washington State, states “ICE is emboldened in a way that I have never seen…the federal government, in just a couple of months, has undone decades of work that we have done to build this trust.”

  • Many immigrants are foregoing seeking out lifesaving services. Immigrant advocates report that fearful members of their communities are refusing to visit doctors. Eligible immigrant families have been giving up their right to receive food stamps.

  • In Minnesota deportations are undermining the community’s efforts to counter radical recruitment because they have less ways to counter the Al-Shabab narrative that Somalis are unwelcome and unwanted in America.

  • In Minneapolis, bus stations have become a popular place for ICE pick-ups and people are afraid to use public transportation

  • Activists are afraid to speak publicly for their Constitutional rights because ICE is targeting people who speak out, such as two dairy workers in VT and an activist in NY who has been detained.

Concluding Remarks

Over the course of this discussion, People Power has given you the truthful statistics about undocumented people.

You will also hear from your City Attorney about the micro-legalities and implications, as well as protections that the 9 ACLU policing policies offer.

What I wanted to accomplish with these comments is to paint a broader context for your decision, because history is here. It’s literally in your hands and in your yes or no vote. If that is frustrating to you, I understand. Every other President, whether Republican or Democrat, has made a certain amount of neutrality or remove possible. Mr Trump has eliminated "wait and see" and neutrality as a moral option. We are all in a the pressure cooker of either enabling or resisting his agenda, but one thing is for certain, that agenda will continue. It may not be something we voted for or wanted, but it's here, and it's a force to be reckoned with. We have no choice but that of how we will position ourselves around it: Who will be protected, who receives shelter, how we act as individuals and communities, and who is lost.

The other thing I want to mention is that Donald Trump is a white person problem. We created him, that majority of us, even women, voted for him. And we, as people who do not fear retaliatory deportations, are the only ones who can stop him. It’s time to take the burden off the people most vulnerable and wounded and step in as citizens who have a different vision for America than one based on hate. I know there are a lot of us out there.

If you’re looking for guidance, consistency, a set of principles or absolutes, immigration law in this country will not necessarily provide it. It has been a long and winding thread through American history that has at times been stretched, tangled, or completely broken. That is why we are looking for people not to analyze and follow, but to decide, not to react to a course, but to set a course, not to ignore what is going on, but to prevent it from encroaching even one more step. I also want to stress that the motive is not to send a negative message to Trump, although personally I have no problem with that, but to send a positive message to a persecuted people that they are welcome, that they are safe, that their struggle today is understood, and that, they too can call 911 in our city.

Thank you.

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