Colorado Looks to Progress, Nativists Push Back

Domenic Powell • May 17, 2012

Fred Elbel, a leader in the population control wing of the anti-immigrant movement, has reared his ugly head to counter a push to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers licenses in Colorado.

Elbel is the spokesperson for the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform (CAIR), the state contact for the Federation for Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR). Prior to his days with Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform, he was the President of Defend Colorado Now, a similarly purposed organization that attracted a number of Colorado political luminaries, including former governor Richard Lamm. In 2004, along with Brenda Walker, Elbel coordinated a campaign for multiple anti-immigrant ideologues to take over the board of directors of the Sierra Club through their group Sierrans for US Population Stabilization (SUSPS). Walker herself is an avowed white nationalist, once referring to US Hmong as “drug-addicted polygamists.”

Colorado activists often begrudgingly credit their state as having begun the swing toward state-level anti-immigrant laws with SB90, which predates Arizona’s SB1070. Despite that dubious distinction, the state has also been on the brink of passing pro-immigrant initiatives like driver’s licenses, and ASSET, a tuition equity proposal that would allow undocumented Colorado students to attend college and pay the same tuition rate as their citizen peers.

Aside from Elbel, the nativist old guard is also still embarrassing the state. Former congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado), founder of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, and former Governor Richard Lamm (D), who also served on the board of FAIR, are still active and vocal. While Lamm was on the FAIR board of directors (between 1982 and 1994) FAIR accepted $1.28 million from the Pioneer Fund, a white supremacist foundation that funds “science” dedicated to researching white intellectual supremacy. Lamm is currently the Co-Director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies at the University of Denver and is on FAIR’s board of advisors.

Although the state is yet to really combat the problematic influence of nativism and bigotry in its state politics, pro-immigrant advocates are making headway, and initiatives like driver’s licenses have helped nurture a greater grassroots movement for immigrant rights. Activists in the state quickly alerted one another of a “surge” by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Aurora, and immediately mobilized. ICE later walked back its claim of a “surge,” caving to public discontent.

By presenting an alternative to the anti-immigrant ideologues that have dominated the state’s past, activists on the ground there are doing what they can to repair the state’s reputation. A future Colorado will be more welcoming, safer, and better off for it.

UPDATE: Embarrassing the conservative cause even further this week, state representative Spencer Swalm shared a link from white supremacist website VDARE on Twitter. In comparing the looting after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, VDARE writer Steve Sailer (who wrote the article that Swalm shared) crudely opined that “when you get down to it, Japanese aren’t Blacks.”

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