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W. Va. L. Rev.


Beginning with the passage of its anti-immigrant “Show-Me-Your-Papers” law in April 2010, S.B. 1070, much has been written about the hostile political climate toward noncitizens in the State of Arizona specifically and the U.S.-Mexico border generally. However, the recent influx of refugees from Central America to the United States has seen a resurgence in the anti-immigrant rhetoric, which is particularly disturbing since a large percentage of the individuals fleeing violence and poverty are children. In this vein, one aspect of the genesis of S.B. 1070 and other anti-immigrant laws that have not received a great deal of attention is the significant presence – and the startling growth of – white supremacist and Neo-Nazi groups throughout Arizona and the Southwest in the years leading up to the introduction and passage of S.B. 1070 and its predecessor laws. While groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have monitored and documented the rise of anti-immigrant hate groups in the Southwest over the past decade, the correlation between the activities of these organizations, anti-immigrant activism, and the passage of state laws designed to intimidate, threaten, and harass noncitizens and other people of color living and working in Arizona and the American Southwest has not been fully explored in the mainstream political and legal media.

This Article examines the growth of the white supremacist movement in Arizona and other Southwestern states, and argues that the influence of these groups plays a significant role in the caustic rhetoric we are currently witnessing in the humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border and in the flurry of anti-immigrant laws approved by the state legislature and the electorate since the early 2000s. Part I discusses some of the most prominent white supremacist and Neo-Nazi groups currently operating in Arizona and other states along the U.S.-Mexico border. Part II provides an overview of some of the prominent politicians and citizens in the Southwest who have been linked to extremist and racist groups, and how their affiliations impacted the spread of anti-immigrant rhetoric into the cultural mainstream, as well as the introduction and passage of state anti-immigrant laws and policies. Part III discusses the current humanitarian crisis on the border, and profiles some of the most notorious recent incidents of anti-immigrant sentiment tied to white supremacists – such as the murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores by border vigilantes in 2009 and the murderous rampage of Neo-Nazi J.T. Ready in 2011 – and examines how the anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric of these groups contribute to the ongoing violence against and scapegoating of migrants seeking refuge in the United States. The Article concludes with Part IV, in which I argue that unless and until the white supremacist roots of anti-immigrant rhetoric is acknowledged, the southern border of the United States will continue to be a flashpoint in which hate groups can continue to implement their extremist agenda against noncitizens and people of color.