Lighting the Powder Train
September 05, 2001, 05:00 AM
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[VDARE note: Traditionally, immigration is thought of as affecting the great metropolises of the East and West Coasts, but now it's affecting the heartland. In addition to the Colorado situation discussed by Chilton Williamson, it's now affecting Arkansas, where a Congressional election in Arkansas's Third District is being fought largely on immigration, Democrats are getting compliments from LULAC, Republican Gunner Delay being criticized for speaking out against illegal immigration, and editorial page writers are asking for "bridges, not walls."

Dan Morris of Americans for an Immigration Moratorium had a meeting broken up in Rogers, Arkansas when members of LULAC showed up.

Some grass roots Americans are starting to catch on to this "compassionate conservative" thing, too.]

By  Chilton Williamson Jr.

Could Colorado be the flashpoint in America's immigration debate? Not just the notorious Front Range, but the state as a whole has experienced explosive population growth over the past two decades, the 1990s especially. This growth has occurred in the foreign-born as well as the native-born populations, with migrants coming in from everywhere–the East Coast, California, Mexico, Asia.

According to the Rocky Mountain News (2 September 2001), in the decade 1990-99 the Hispanic population of Colorado grew by 42.2%, the Asian one by 62.1%, compared with a 19.3% increase in the European-American population. More than 20% of births in the state were Hispanic. And so a large proportion of the huge California Colorado-or-Bust contingent, impelled to reverse pioneering by massive immigration to their native Golden State, now find immigration pursuing them to Colorado as well - and bringing with it all the social, political, and environmental pathologies they believed they had put behind them on the Left Coast.

Former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm has been warning his fellow Coloradans for thirty years about the dangers of mass immigration, only to be rewarded by indifference, hostility, and the appellation "Governor Gloom." On August 7, U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo (R.-CO), a gutsy opponent of immigration enthusiasm, joined Lamm at the State Capitol building to call for a five-year moratorium on immigration – as embodied in H.R. 2712,(PDF document.) recently introduced in Congress by Rep. Tancredo and including a provision to reduce the annual ceiling for legal immigration to 300,000 -  700,000 less than the approximately 1,000,000 legal immigrants currently admitted  after the moratorium ends.  (Gross immigration of 300,000 is assumed to balance emigration, leaving no net immigration = a moratorium.)

The response in Colorado to the Lamm-Tancredo initiative has been striking. After printing what they thought about the plan for a moratorium, the Post's immigrationist editors felt compelled (apparently) to devote nearly a full page in a recent Sunday Perspective section to letters from angry readers who felt the United States as a whole–and Colorado in particular–had too many immigrants already. (Though the enthusiast side was represented as well, the antis seemed to have the last word as it were, in terms of space as well as cogency; plus, a few pages on was an excellent column by the redoubtable Al Knight , the Post's voice of reason on the immigration issue.) The letter writers included several women, always a good sign, and bore down heavily, though by no means exclusively, on the implications immigration has for population growth and the environment. Moreover, according to Fred Elbel, a Denver activist with Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization (SUSPS), "many, many [anti-immigration] letters to the editor of both the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News have not been printed."

Colorado has been concerned for years about the problem of population growth and urban sprawl. Only last fall Proposition 24, an amendment to the state constitution to promote "smart growth," was put to the voters, who defeated it. (Although the state politicians did their best, more or less successfully, to prevent the immigration issue from being raised in this context, it may well have occurred to those voting "No" on 24 that the unending immigrant flow, not Coloradoans' retrograde building preferences, was the issue needing to be addressed.) Republican Governor Bill Owens, having already called one special legislative session on growth, is likely to call another.                         

"Yes, I think Colorado is where the action is," Population Stabilization's Elbel writes me. "We've already lost California to demographics, environmental degradation, and overpopulation. Colorado is where California was 40 years ago. But here, people see the growth and sprawl first-hand. And they also see the results of mass immigration (more immigrants and more Californians)."

Another activist with an interest in immigration control adds, "Not only do we have all the growth-controllers and ex-Californians, but we also have many cultural conservatives that fill the countryside and might be convinced to resist immigration if pressed. If any state is going to make a major issue of immigration, it is likely to be this one."

Though population and sprawl come first to the minds of Coloradoans concerned with the effects of immigration, a series of racially motivated assaults including murder and rape, as well as lesser knife fights, car wrecks, and domestic violence perpetrated by immigrants mainly on each other, are receiving attention as a result of coverage by the state–though not, of course, the national–media. In the first category, the most prominent story has to do with six Hmong immigrants, members of the Asian Crips gang who in August 1999 grabbed a white 20-year-old University of Colorado co-ed from a street in Boulder, packed her into a minivan, and drove her to a remote canyon, where they serially raped her - apparently as part of a gang initiation ceremony. Another concerns an immigrant from Guyana who arranged the murder of an elderly man, his wife, and a high-school boy after deciding that the grandfather was a racist and deserved to be killed for his views.

At least one local Colorado politician has had more than enough of diversity and immigrant-pandering–and said so. Recently, Lakewood City Councilman Bob Filson, 68 years old, resigned his seat after his colleagues in the city government expressed the usual "outrage" over comments he made to a weekly newspaper reporter. The city's Commission on Cultural Diversity and Senior Citizens Advisory Board is, Filson said, "a lot of hot air." As for immigrants to the United States, he opined, some of them "really don't take a lot of pride in taking an American identity. You should be an American, not a Mexican-American or an African-American–you are an American." Filson, moreover, confessed to being sick and tired of hearing immigrants claim superiority for their home countries. "If it's that great, why don't they go back there? They need to truly believe in the American system and style of life rather than criticizing it."

Mayor Steve Burkholder denounced Filson's remarks as "insensitive and extremely racist" before going on to describe Lakewood as "a place where anybody can live and anybody can partake and be part of our city." Except, of course, a white 68-year-old native-born American citizen determined to speak truth to power.  [VDARE note: For a local Long Island elected official being punished for voicing his constituents' concerns, click here.] 

The process of consciousness-raising indispensable to a grassroots revolt against immigration has begun in Colorado. Native transplants to the state are typically white, affluent, suburban, SUV-driving, environmentalist, outdoorsy, quality-of-life-oriented–and Republican. When – and if – the breakout comes, as an affluent Republican state with a Republican governor and two Republican Senators (one of them up for reelection next year), Colorado is certain to make itself heard nationally and to exercise real clout in the GOP, on amnesty in particular and immigration-related issues generally.  

Colorado, the hub of the Rocky Mountain West, is an anti-immigration tinderbox waiting to explode. After Amendment 24 – what?

Chilton Williamson Jr. is the author of The Immigration Mystique: America's False Conscience and an editor and columnist for Chronicles Magazine, where he writes the The Hundredth Meridian column about life in the Rocky Mountain West.

September 05, 2001