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Longtime Anti-Immigrant Activists Behind Murrieta Protests

Starting in late June 2014, anti-immigrant activists in Murrieta, California, have prevented buses carrying migrants fleeing violence in Central America from entering the town’s border patrol processing center. The protests have garnered national and international attention due to the extreme rhetoric and ugly climate surrounding them. Numerous anti-immigrant activists with close ties to the anti-immigrant movement flocked to Murrieta from all over Southern California to participate. Some of these protesters are closely tied to extreme elements of the anti-immigrant movement and have a history of bigoted statements.

Patrice Lynes – the key organizer of the protests

Patrice Lynes, an anti-immigrant activist from nearby Temecula, organized the protests. Lynes consistently uses extreme rhetoric when discussing the humanitarian crisis at the border. In an email to anti-immigrant activists about the protests, Lynes said authorities “need to know that we OPPOSE their pro-crime agenda of importing illegal aliens, diseases and crime.” Lynes has also supported anti-immigrant measures in the past. In July 2010, she spoke to the Temecula City Council and advocated in favor of the town passing an anti-immigrant E-verify ordinance. Passing E-verify, which would mandate that all employers check the immigration status of new hires, is a measure long supported by the anti-immigrant movement. 

Lynes also has supported far-right figures and conspiracy theories. In April 2014, she posted a video on her Facebook page of the anti-government figure Cliven Bundy and the standoff between anti-government extremists and law enforcement that occurred on his land. Lynes also adheres to conspiracy theories promoted by the far-right John Birch Society, including one known as Agenda 21. Agenda 21 is a United Nations action plan aimed at pro­mot­ing sus­tain­able devel­op­ment, which groups such as the John Birch Society claim will result in the United States giv­ing up its sov­ereignty. In 2007, Lynes signed a petition put forth by the Conservative Exodus Project, a far-right group disenchanted with mainstream conservatism. The petition signatories pledge to “oppose the third-world invasion of the United States,” to “support a mayoral candidate critical of secularism, who embodies Christian Western tradition” and “oppose free trade, the support of which has become an ideological suicide pact.”

We the People Rising – Southern California-based anti-immigrant group helping to promote the protests

The Claremont-based anti-immigrant group We the People Rising, formerly known as We the People California’s Crusader, continues to push the news about the protests in Murrieta and appears to have provided many of the signs at the protests. The group is very active in the Southern California area and organizes protests and office visits to elected official on an almost weekly basis. We the People events attract anti-immigrant activists such as Lupe Morfin (formerly Lupe Moreno), who espouses extreme rhetoric about immigrants. At a rally organized by We the People Rising in 2013, Morfin told the Los Angeles Times, "They've completely taken over our areas and our neighborhoods, which have become Third World countries.”

We The People Rising often participates in events with activists from the grassroots organizing arm of the anti-immigrant movement, NumbersUSA. The group also participated in numerous anti-Obama overpass protests over the past few years, where protesters held signs calling for the impeachment of the President.

Robin Hvidston - We the People Rising executive director  

We the People’s executive director Robin Hvidston, a long-time anti-immigrant activist, participated in the protests in Murrieta. Hvidston also attended the extreme anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform’s 2013 Hold Their Feet to the Fire rally in Washington, D.C. The event brings together anti-immigrant activists, public fig­ures, radio hosts and immi­gra­tion restric­tion­ist mem­bers of Con­gress in an effort to influ­ence the immi­gra­tion debate.

In November 2010, Hvidston and other anti-immigrant activists from California drove to San Francisco to show support for Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law SB1070 outside the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals where a lawsuit brought by the state of Arizona against the U.S. government was heard. In the mid-2000s, Hvidston was heavily involved in the Minutemen movement. She served as the Minuteman Project’s national rally coordinator. Anti-immigrant activist Jim Gilchrist founded the Project.

Raymond Herrera  - We the People Rising founder

Herrera, like Hvidston, is another longtime anti-immigrant activist based in Southern California. He has a history of expressing bigoted statements and anti-Mexican conspiracy theories. Herrera attends anti-immigrant events all over California and nationwide on a regular basis. Herrera was reportedly a member of the anti-immigrant front group You Don’t Speak for Me (YDSFM). FAIR helped to from YDSFM in 2006. In 2010, Herrera spoke at a pro-SB1070 event in Arizona along with a number of anti-immigrant extremists. During his speech Herrera asserted, “To be an American is to be an Anglo-Protestant core culture society.”

Herrera also attended the 2010 pro-SB1070 rally in Arizona along with Robin Hvidston. At the event, Herrera posed for a picture with Russell Pearce, the former Arizona state senator who worked with the anti-immigrant movement to draft and introduce SB1070 and Rick Oltman, a former FAIR employee with ties to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. Herrera was also actively involved in the Minutemen movement in the early to mind 2000s. He served as the Minuteman Project’s national rally spokesman. At a rally at the Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino, California in 2008, Herrera told the crowd that, “The whole world, and the people of the United States look upon the people of Mexico, their culture, their government and their desires to conquer America… is that of cowards.”

Jeff Schwilk - Border & Immigration Security Analyst with the San Diegans for Secure Borders Coalition 

In an action report he wrote about the protests, anti-immigrant activist Jeff Schwilk, the Border & Immigration Security Analyst with the anti-immigrant San Diegans for Secure Borders Coalition, provided details about the nature of the protests as well as photographs. Schwilk is the former leader of the San Diego Minutemen (SDMM), one of the more extreme Minutemen groups. He has been involved in border vigilante actions in both California and Arizona. SDMM was particularly aggressive in targeting employers who hire Hispanic day laborers as well as the laborers themselves. Members of the SDMM made derogatory and racist comments against Latinos.

According to a video obtained by the Voice of San Diego in August 2007, Schwilk and other SDMM members went through a migrant camp in North County, California, and destroyed property belonging to migrants residing there.

Schwilk is also tied to the national anti-immigrant groups. He has attended FAIR’s Hold Their Feet to the Fire event in the past and encouraged anti-immigrant activists to attend the 2013 event. A fellow spokesperson along with Schwilk for the San Diegans for Secure Borders Coalition is Peter Nunez. Nunez is the president of the board of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) a major anti-immigrant think tank based in Washington and also founded by racist John Tanton, the founder of the modern day anti-immigrant movement. Schwilk sends out emails on a daily basis about the protests in Murrieta and encourages anti-immigrant activists from around the state to join him there.

Conclusion

The continuing protests in Murrieta are not only attracting local activists but also anti-immigrant activists from all over Southern California. As we have seen with similar protests in Vassar, Michigan, established anti-immigrant groups and longtime anti-immigrant activists are playing a crucial role in the protests in both states. In Murrieta and Vassar, anti-immigrant activists closely tied to the largest anti-immigrant groups in the country such as FAIR and NumbersUSA are helping to spread a their message of bigotry and xenophobia  in an attempt to create a climate of fear around this humanitarian crisis.

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