Ku Klux Klan Seizing On Anti-Immigrant Sentiment To Draw New Members

Esther Yu-Hsi Lee Immigration Reporter, Think Progress

Citing the issue of child arrivals through the U.S.-Mexico border, about 100 members of the Ku Klux Klan held a protest in North Carolina over the weekend to drum up support against immigration. The event was part of the organization’s latest campaign strategy to recruit new members.

According to a local Fox affiliate, Klan members did not give a speech at the rally, opting instead to shout messages of white power and hate against “mixed breeds.” At the same time, the Fox reporter said that immigration advocate counter-protesters across the street sang the gospel song, “Hallelujah.” The event at the Troy County Courthouse devolved into a shouting match between Klan members and counter-protesters who were separated by law enforcement officials. For over a month, the KKK has advertised the Troy rally, calling on local residents to “save our land, join the Klan.” The rally drew between 400 and 500 immigration advocates counter-protesters.

Almost 63,000 unaccompanied migrant children, mostly from Central America, have come across the southern U.S. border since October 2013 and the KKK has increasingly used that situation to hold anti-immigrant protests. The KKK held a private rally at a member’s home in the South Carolina city of Abbeville last weekend, while 300 immigration advocates counter-protested about an hour away in Greenville, S.C. And last month, the group left fliers and bags of candy on driveways in South Carolina, urging residents to call a “Klan Hotline” to disseminate hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric. The organization, fast dwindling in members and funded by nativist groups, has seen membership sharply drop since 2010.

The KKK began targeting immigrants in July as part of its newest recruiting tool that they hold three times a year. In spite of having a website that still features cross-burning and hood-wearing, the Klan has even tried to reach out to black people with its anti-immigrant message. “We’re starting to see the whites and African-Americans waking up to this illegal immigration problem,” Robert Jones, Imperial Wizard of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, said to Vice. “We’re starting to reach out more to the African-American community and talk to them about the same issues, and they’re agreeing with the Klan that illegal immigration needs to stop.”

Imperial Wizard Chris Barker of the North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan told Fox last month, “If they (blacks) would actually listen to what we’re talking about, it ain’t about them anymore with the Klan. It’s usually about the immigrants who are flooding (the United States).” One Klan member from North Carolina told Al Jazeera, “If we pop a couple of ’em off and leave the corpses laying on the border, maybe they’ll see we’re serious about stopping immigrants.”

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), told the Orange County Register that the Loyal White Knights are trying to unite Americans around demonizing undocumented immigrants.

The KKK is not the only extremist group to target immigrants this summer. Most recently, right-wing militiamen took to the Texas-Mexico border to confront border crossers. One militia leader said, “You see an illegal. You point your gun dead at him, right between the eyes, and you say, ‘Get back across the border or you will be shot.’” And groups like ALIPAC, Make Them Listen, and Overpasses for America, have held anti-immigrant rallies, but most of them has drawn few supporters. In many cases, extremists were overwhelmed by local residents who rallied in support of the unaccompanied children. One anti-immigrant rally in McAllen, Texas by Overpass members only attracted three people; another in Milwaukee drew a handful of flag-bearers; and still another scheduled protest in Minnesota was manned by one person.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated the KKK as a hate group. The number of KKK groups diminished since the 1960s. The SPLC estimates that there are about 5,000-8,000 members “split among dozens of different – and often warring – organizations that use the Klan name.”


This has been reposted from Think Progress.

Esther Yu-Hsi Lee is an Immigration Reporter/Blogger for ThinkProgress. She received her B.A. in Psychology and Middle East Studies and a M.A. in Psychology from New York University. A Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiary, Esther is passionate about immigration issues from all sides of the debate. She is originally from Los Angeles, CA.

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