LATINO VOICES

Arizona Republican Praises Anti-Immigrant ‘Hate Group' (UPDATED)

03/28/2014 11:48 am ET | Updated Apr 16, 2014
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Arizona State Sen. Al Melvin (R-Tucson) praised an organization characterized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center this week and urged the public to spend millions of tax dollars on the group’s border security system.

Melvin mentioned the work of the American Border Patrol during a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting Tuesday while arguing in favor of a bill to create a “virtual fence” that would use a combination of video sensors and radar to monitor where people attempt to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

“It’s our responsibility to do all that we can in a reasonable manner to stem the leaking like a sieve at the border,” Melvin said. “There’s a company in Chochise county -- the American Border Patrol -- I would encourage people to look at that website.”

The front page of the website plays up the group’s relationship with Melvin, featuring an article describing how the state legislator participated in the presentation of a border security system called the “Sonic Barrier” back in 2010.

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes American Border Patrol’s leader, Glenn Spencer, as a “vitriolic Mexican-basher and self-appointed guardian of the border.”

A representative for Spencer contacted HuffPost to deny these specific descriptions and state that "Mr. Spencer and the ABP have no issue with law-abiding entrants or our newest citizens." Spencer has denied charges of racism in the past, saying some of his statements have been taken out of context, according to the El Paso Times.

Spencer produced a film called “Conquest of Aztlán,” in 2001, in which he argues that Mexicans are conspiring to reconquer the U.S. Southwest, with the aid of the Mexican government. An item posted last year in the American Patrol Report, a news website affiliated with the American Border Patrol, suggested President Barack Obama supported such a plan.

"By invoking the phrase 'the border crossed them,' Barack Obama once again makes it clear that he supports the Reconquista's claim that the Southwest was stolen from Mexico and that Mexicans have a right to take it back," the American Patrol Report's editors wrote.

The fence discussed by the Arizona Senate Appropriations Commitee would cost an estimated $30 million, the Associated Press reports, though the bill passed by the committee doesn’t include an appropriation. The Department of Homeland Security abandoned a similar attempt in 2011 after spending almost $1 billion, due to agency concerns that the system cost more than it was worth.

American Border Patrol’s leader Glenn Spencer has been working on a similar “virtual fence” system, whose name has changed from “Sonic Barrier” to “IDENTISEIS” since it was first demonstrated to Arizona lawmakers. Melvin said he favored using the system Spencer helped develop and would like to install it using prison labor paid at $0.50 per hour, according to Arizona 3TV.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Glenn Spencer's film "Conquest of Aztlán" argued that President Barack Obama supported an alleged Mexican plan to reconquer the U.S. Southwest. In fact, the film was made in 2001 and the statement regarding Obama was made on the American Patrol Report's website last year.

This post has been updated to add a comment from a representative of Glenn Spencer.

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