Racism And The Immigration Debate

State politicians may have reached an agreement on immigration yesterday, but it will do little to quiet the issue. Especially if groups like the Ku Klux Klan have their say.

The Rocky Mountain News reported-also, yesterday-that a leader from the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has credited the immigration issue with a rise in membership. A rise, he says, has taken place in the Olathe, Colorado, a small town on the western slope.

Railton Loy, the self-identified International Imperial Wizard, said the Klan chapter in Olathe was formed about four years ago and invited him to speak at an anti-immigration rally on the Montrose County Courthouse steps about a year and a half ago. He said the chapter was small and couldn’t raise enough money to pay his expenses, so he put off the trip.

“It’s just a little klavern,” he said.

To form a klavern, or KKK chapter, at least 15 members are required, he said.

According to the Local History Center of the Canon City Public Library, the Knights had one of the most “largest and most influential” Colorado followings of “any other state west of the Mississippi River” during the 1920s-a time when the Klan had great influence over the country.

Last May, the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors racialist groups in the United States, also claimed to find a direct link between immigration and racist extremism. The study showed a 33% growth in extremist groups over five years and gave examples of their involvement:

On May 6, the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan held an anti-immigration rally in Russellville, Alabama, that drew more than 300 Klansmen and Klan supporters, including members of the neo-Nazi hate group Aryan Nations. At the rally, robed Klansmen burned a 22-foot-high cross and yelled, “Let’s get rid of the Mexicans!”

With political operatives paying credence to the immigration “crisis” for their own agendas, and with the Klan’s historical footprint in the state, it is certainly no surprise that racist groups would use the issue to bulk up the ranks.

It is also not something to be taken lightly. For encapsulated in that history resides years of violence and intimidation, right in our own backyard.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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