William Gheen is the founder and president of Americans for Legal Immigration Reform PAC (ALIPAC), a fringe anti-immigrant group based in North Carolina. In July, Gheen partnered with two other right-wing groups to coordinate protests against young Central American refugees. He is now going after Republicans who supported immigration reform, calling for another round of national protests on October 24 and 25.
As Gheen continues to exploit xenophobic fears, it’s useful to know a bit more about the man, and the group for which he speaks.
1. ALIPAC is not an organization; ALIPAC is one person with an email list.
Gheen founded ALIPAC ten years ago, and is the president, spokesman, and only full-time staff member. So far this year, he paid himself just over $69,000. The only other listed staff person was paid $3,315.
Gheen does have a large email list that he has built over the past decade. But it is debatable how much this easy access to inboxes translates into actual influence on policy and opinion. The paltry turn-out to July’s national days of protest demonstrates how little of Gheen’s online activity could be turned into in-person mobilization.
Gheen is an opportunist whose influence was waning. But, by attaching himself to the hysterical response to young refugees arriving from Central America, he has been able to reinsert himself into a national conversation on immigrant and refugee policy, and regain a bit of prominence.
2. William Gheen is not a reliable source of information; he frequently and publicly lies.
He regularly cites bogus data and inflammatory conspiracy theories. He recently explained in an interview with Alex Jones that children fleeing violence in Central America are being recruited into Obama’s secret army, lured by Obamaphones.
He takes credit for events and accomplishments he did not orchestrate, and would like us to believe he has much more power and influence than he actually does. For example, in recent email asking for donations to fund more robocalls in Tennessee, he took credit for Cantor’s defeat: “We saturated Cantor’s district with our calls and he lost.”
3. Gheen has a long track record of racist and repugnant remarks.
He believes migration from Central America is a plot by the Obama administration to destroy white America. In addition to calling the recently arrived children “invaders,” he consistently pushes the xenophobic myth that immigrants carry disease and are a public health threat.
He systematically paints immigrants as dangerous criminals and predators. He alleges that Mexican American immigrants hate the US and want “you and your whole family to die.” He has conflated immigration itself with sexual assault, calling immigration reform “national rape” and claiming immigrants won’t respect people’s sexual boundaries.
His bigotry is not confined to immigrants; in 2010 he was featured on an anti-Semitic radio show. In a more recent attempt to expose and defeat Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, he impugned Graham’s character and professionalism, and accused Graham of caving to pressure from the homosexual guild in Washington, D.C.
4. He builds relationships with more extreme and violent groups, and promotes their ideas.
Earlier this summer, Gheen personally invitated the Oath Keepers to take part in protests against young refugees from Central America. The Oathkeepers are a patriot group that prepares to overthrow the government should it fail to uphold the Constitution. Gheen has connections to the Minutemen, and once introduced Chris Simcox as “my friend, my ally.”
Gheen regularly implies that violent revolution may be necessary to stop Obama and immigration. He most recently warned that the reaction to executive action on immigration “won’t be peaceful and political.”
5. Gheen relies on connections to the established anti-immigrant movement.
While beltway anti-immigrant groups have publicly distanced themselves from Gheen, they won’t condemn him. Gheen is useful to them because he says what they cannot say publicly.
The relationship is mutually beneficial: Gheen not only provides a bridge to more extreme and militant right wing groups; he also benefits from the established nativist movement’s network and funding.
Gheen has a track record of extreme and racist remarks, and should not be part of any reasonable conversation on immigration or refugees. Like other representatives of organized racist groups, he does not deserve a seat at the table.