Barbara Coe is not your typical sixty-something silver-haired-senior-in-polyester. The California resident, who claims to be part Sioux Indian, is a seasoned veteran of the state’s anti-immigrant wars. Now, in the wake of September 11, she thinks the time is ripe for another anti-immigrant campaign.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, at a rally at the Garden Grove Woman’s Civic Hall, the California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR) announced that they would begin collecting signatures for a new statewide anti-immigrant ballot initiative. According to the Orange County Register, Barbara Coe, president of CCIR, boasted that her new ballot initiative–eerily titled the “Homeland Security Initiative”–would deny illegal immigrants access to public services. (For more on CCIR, see www.ccir.net.)
Coe’s California initiative, which may be the tip of a nationwide anti-immigration iceberg, is being described as a “modified” version of the state’s notorious 1994 anti-immigrant ballot initiative, Proposition 187. In fact, Coe worked with then-Governor Pete Wilson to pass Prop 187, which was later ruled unconstitutional by the courts and subsequently suspended by Governor Gray Davis. According to the Orange County Register, ” ‘The Homeland Security Initiative’ is intended to remove what it calls incentives for illegal immigration. It would require the state to verify the legal status of anyone receiving ‘public benefits,’ ensure that all applicants for driver’s licenses are in the country legally, and require that police officers turn over any illegal immigrants they arrest to federal authorities.”
These days, conservatives are fond of fashioning a connection between immigration and terrorism. A good portion of Pat Buchanan’s latest book, Death of the West, is devoted to warning that immigrant hordes are hellbent on destroying Western civilization. Congressman Ron Paul, who represents the 14th Congressional District of Texas, described it this way: “The fight against terrorism should be fought largely at our borders. Once potential terrorists are in the country, the task of finding and arresting them becomes much harder, and the calls for intrusive government monitoring of all of us become louder. If we do not want to move in the direction of a police state at home, we must prevent terrorists from entering the country in the first place. Finally, meaningful immigration reform can only take place when we end the welfare state. No one has a right to immigrate to America and receive benefits paid for by taxpayers. When we eliminate welfare incentives, we insure that only those who truly seek America’s freedoms and opportunities will want to come here.”
Barbara Coe is no anti-immigration amateur. Since the mid-1990s, according to the Chicago-based Center for New Community (CNC), an organization that monitors the activities of white supremacist organizations, Coe’s California Coalition for Immigration Reform has been “the leading grassroots anti-immigrant organization in the country…with an impact that has extended beyond the borders of California to reach across the country.” CCIR has been able to “find allies in elected office even while maintaining a firm footing in the politics of white supremacy.”