Fight for the Future
Anti-illegal immigrant activists in America's oldest immigrant entry point
By Bret Liebendorfer
New York Press
In recent days, massive rallies, like A Day Without an Immigrant, drew tens
of thousands of flag-waving participants in New York and captured most of
the city's attention regarding the immigrant debate. Most New Yorkers tend
to think of anti-illegal immigrant groups as Wild West-style vigilantes
patrolling the Southwest border looking for brown-skin invaders. But it has
now become clear that these groups are hardly limited to just the border, as
the anti-illegal immigrant movement is now targeting New York and working
persistently on what they describe as efforts to secure America. With
overlapping memberships, it's difficult to differentiate one group from
another, but what their opponents fear most is that some of these incestuous
relationships may be marginally linked to America's white separatist groups.
Nevertheless, this negative suspicion has done little to dampen the
anti-illegal immigrant movement.
"We, as concerned New Yorkers, got brave enough to voice our anti-illegal
immigrant position and are taking it to the streets," said Joanna Mazullo,
president of New York Immigration Control and Enforcement (I.C.E.) on why
the group formed. NY I.C.E. mirrors many of the ideals of anti-illegal
immigrant groups around the country: They are against the granting of
amnesty and driver's licenses to current illegal immigrants and believe the
solution to solving the illegal immigrant problem is enforcement of existing
Despite being a newcomer to the scene, NY I.C.E. had a busy month in June.
Three rallies were held separately at the Mexican Consulate, Revolution
Books and the offices of Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer. "We
wanted to make our group known," Marzullo said. "We're planning other
actions where people can be less afraid to come out."
While anti-illegal immigrant groups are generally united in their beliefs,
there are variations in regards to tactics. The 9/11 Families for America,
for example, chose to pursue legislative options. "We go to Washington,
states and cities and try to speak with people in policy positions to put
legislature into action to make our country more secure," said Bruce DeCell,
a board member for 9/11 Families for America. "We had people failed by the
federal government, and we're trying to not let that happen again."
For others, direct action is the only form of action. The New York Minutemen
have shut down day labor centers frequented by illegal immigrants in Long
Island and have even patrolled the United States/Canada border.
Other anti-illegal immigration groups like NY I.C.E. specialize in protests
or rallies in hopes of getting media attention. A recent rally targeted
Revolution Books, a radical bookstore that is located near Union Square and
is home to the Revolutionary Communist Party, because, according to a NY
I.C.E. press release, they wanted to "expose the supporters of illegal
immigrants, bringing them 'out of the shadows.'" It was here that members of
the rally admitted to being part of other groups such as the Minutemen when
confronted by their opponents. As it turned out, Marzullo said
outsiders-some she had never seen before-participated as well.
Overlapping memberships and widespread support from other anti-illegal
immigrant groups makes it difficult to know where one group ends and another
begins. "We'll be involved with anyone furthering the causes. There are many
aspects, and there are many groups trying to do something about it," said
DeCell. "As for the people on the borders, we support them. I have been to
the border, but we figure legislature, if we put pressure on our leaders, is
the best process."
Countless reports have shown the interconnectedness of the anti-illegal
movement to other causes, most of which the movement does not dispute. One
association leaders in the anti-illegal immigrant movement are adamantly
against, however, is the notion that racism plays a role in their efforts.
Ron Lewenberg, who is well known for his conservative college activism at
Columbia University and helped found NY I.C.E., said it's unfair for both
sides to play the extremist card.
"We officially denounce racism," Marzullo said. "Since [pro-illegal
immigrant supporters] can't handle the facts, they resort to name calling."
"If someone says I'm discriminating against an immigrant, that's a terrible
thing, and that's something I would never do," DeCell said. When asked about
racist elements, Marzullo said she is a granddaughter of legal Hispanic
immigrants, and she's unaware of any members with racist beliefs.
Supporters of illegal immigrant groups said tokenism is used to disguise
racist tendencies. "The primary tactics these groups use to hide their
bigotry is to use black Americans and Hispanics to join their groups," said
Mark Potok, director for Intelligence Report, a publication of the Southern
Poverty Legal Center. Jenkins voiced similar concerns and said tokenism is a
new strategy. "[Anti-illegal immigrant groups] have started getting blacks
and Hispanics into anti-immigrant groups. Then they put them in the front to
make it look like they're not racist."
Potok claims that the SPLC has seen a 33 percent rise in hate groups from
2000 to 2005 with 41 new groups forming since the Minutemen formed last
year. "No matter what anti-immigration supporters might say, we're talking
about people with brown skin," Potok said. "There's no question the
immigration issue is helping hate groups grow."