07/15/2010 03:12 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Anti-immigrant Vigilantism: Hate Mongers Seize on Vacuum in National Leadership

A cowardly and anonymous group in Utah sent a list of 1,300 names to immigration offices and media outlets yesterday. It included detailed information, including Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and even names of children and family members. Almost all of the people on the list are Latinos. The group demanded that the persons on the list be deported immediately.

This egregious act of vigilantism is only the latest example of divisive policies and action targeting immigrant communities because of the failure to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform at the national level.


  • Arizona passed its now infamous law supporting racial profiling of immigrants.
  • Massachusetts legislators tried and failed to pass a "report your neighbor" hotline for tracking immigrants.
  • A plethora of race baiting campaign advertisements from political candidates (including Sen. McCain's famous "one of us" ad).
  • Republicans have begun working to strip all Americans of the right to birthright citizenship.

William Gheen, president of the anti-immigrant political action committee, Americans for Legal Immigration, said the people behind the list are "heroes". Seriously? I can't imagine an action more un-American and cowardly than violating privacy and scaring hardworking families under a cloak of anonymonity. What kind of a society are we building if one of its ethical imperatives is to report on your neighbors?

The climate of fear in immigrant communities is growing by the day. The hostility many feel from their leaders and even neighbors is being stoked by hate mongers who can thrive only because Washington is so broken that it's incapable of addressing a problem that the majority of Americans agrees needs to be fixed: our broken immigration system (70% of Americans want comprehensive immigration reform.) But instead of practical action, what dominates the stage are the demagogues - those who would rather make political hay by playing on the fears of Americans.

Treating people as objects for political fodder rather than as human beings is possible only when we dehumanize them. That is what the aforementioned efforts have in common. Immigrants are not names on a list to be targeted by vigilantes, not in fair and just society. Our answer to these zealots must be that American values aren't rooted in exclusion and hate. America is about inclusion and moving forward together.

If you doubt that, listen to any of the stories on this website: