I couldn't tell you how many there were: fewer than 100, according to some estimates; almost 500, say others. But on Saturday, at the intersection of Walnut Hill Lane and North Central Expressway, it felt as though thousands had amassed for a go-home-you-Mexican rally, one day before Sunday's megamarch on City Hall. Maybe it was the sea of red, white and blue--white, mostly. Or maybe it was the strident tone of the placards: "Immigration Yes, Invasion No," "Wide Open to Al-Qaeda," "They Stay We Pay," "One Flag, One Language, One Nation." Or maybe it was the parade float brought by a member of the Constitution Party of Texas: a ringable, portable replica of the Liberty Bell flanked by the Ten Commandments. Or maybe it was the shouting and shoving that occured briefly, away from the media and police officers. Regardless of the official tally, there were plenty of people making plenty of noise at that corner, from 11 a.m. to almost 2 p.m. on Saturday. They got little coverage--a few seconds on the TV news, an inside-Metro piece in the daily paper--but came off loud and proud enough to make you aware of their presence.
Though it went unmentioned in all the media reports about the event, those folks were there at the urging of Citizens for Immigraton Reform, which touts itself as "a group of politically active citizens who recognized the great harm illegal immigration is doing to our state and country." They were joined by otherss with the Associated Conservatives of Texas, but many were just folks who heard about the protest on KLIF-AM (570), most on the morning talk show hosted by right-wingnut Darrell Ankarlo. They ranged in age from the toddler to the ancient; my favorite participant was the elderly woman schlepping the sign that read, "Legal Native and Pissed Off." If I had to carry that giant sign for two hours, I'd be pissed too.
What did they want? For illegal immigrants to go home, right friggin' now. To them, any suggestion of amnesty is an act of treason; they've even turned on George Dubya and his guest-worker suggestion. (Read one sign: "The Bush Doctrine: No Illegal Alien Left Behind." And this is from the base.) They want many things--for Mexicans in this country to speak English, for starters--but mostly they want everyone in this country to pay their taxes. Ironic that this occured the very week most "real" Americans are looking for a way to get out of paying their taxes, but whatever. Pay up or get out, hombre. In short.
They all claimed, of course, to love immigrants. The guy with the thick Irish brogue did. The woman named Ferrari did. The black guy did. The Mexican guy did. They just want those here illegally out. Now. Pronto, a word I believe translates into English, Spanish and Italian, but you get the drift.
"If you don't want to assimilate, go home," said Mary Anne Ferrari, a woman who looked to be in her mid-50s. She carried a sign that read, "Remember the Alamo and Ellis Island." Mary Anne, who had a thick East Coast accent, was accompanied by her grown-up son Vinnie Jr. Vinnie Sr. was there too, wearing his black T-shirt that said, "Welcome to America. Now Speak English." Also on Vinnie's shirt was an image of the Statue of Liberty. Nowhere to be found was Emma Lazarus' poem "The New Colossus," which is contained in full on the monument's pedestal and reads, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, to me." But back to Mary Anne Ferrari, whose mother came from Italy.
"I'm sick of going places and everything's in Spanish," she said. "The Chinese come here and learn how to speak English." (I believe the appropriate repsonse here is: Hong Kong Phooey. But do continue.) "If they want to come here, they need to do it the right way, the Christian way, the legal way. They're trying to overthrow us."
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Yes. Absolutely. Amen. I am sure most of the gardeners and housekeepers who work for most of the folks at Saturday's shindig are trying to overthrow the country. One dirty bedspread at a time.
But what really gets these folks mad is the fact most immigrants, illegal or otherwise, want to speak Spanish, carry a Mexican flag in a march and drink Tecate instead of Natural Light. They want all foreigners who come over here to talk English and like NASCAR and love Jesus (oh, wait...and speaking of, why weren't these folks out at the Texas Motor Speedway, anyway?). Then again, it's far too easy to dismiss these folks as "the modern Klan," as one reporter from the North Texas Indy Media Center did on Saturday. It just ain't gonna look good when pale faces are shouting down their browner brothers from street corners--and lambasting good lefties who remember just who owned parts of this country as late as the 1830s and 1840s and that, pretty much until 1965, any immigrant who came to this country was considered legal and more than welcome.
You had to feel for the dude, all by himself on the east side of the expressway, carrying the teeny-tiny sign that read, "WE ARE ALL IMMIGRANTS." For about half an hour he stood unmolested, flashing his placard and waving the peace sign at passing motorists who probably thought he wanted spare change. Then two men--one big and burly; the other, gangly and dishevled--carrying "Deport Now" and "Illegal Aliens Are Not Citizens" signs went over to shout at him over oncoming traffic. "Love your country or get the hell out!" they shouted at the guy, who grinned and said nothing.
On Sunday, most of these folks moved downtown, to protest the protestors who swarmed by the thousands on City Hall. But on Saturday, one of their ranks carried the greatest sign of them all: "No More Protesting." --Robert Wilonsky