Just a couple days following my election to AILA National Secretary, I received a phone call from a good friend directing me to a website for an organization describing itself as a champion of American values. After a cursory review, it was obvious the entity was composed of immigrant bashers blaming Hispanics for everything from a depressed housing market to global warming. The site had a vast archive of articles, each ranting about the demise of America because of the “Mexican Invasion.” (Guess someone forgot to tell these people Mexico was already part of America.)

Scrolling down the pages, I noticed a reference to my election from a press release posted on the site. Below were numerous threats and comments describing me as a traitorous, idiotic socialist apparently leading an effort aimed at making Mexico City the next US Capitol. My mother would have been proud – her son right up there with the Anti-Christ. Not bad for a cowboy boot wearing redneck Baptist Republican from Oklahoma City.

I found similar references on other sites and discovered that our AILA President, a fellow conservative Republican, was also the target of several mischaracterizations. I thought, who were these people and why did they hate me? I have never published my views on border policy, enforcement, and quotas. I next reviewed nearly a dozen of these anti-immigrant websites. It didn’t take long to realize these groups not only hate me; they hate you; they hate their neighbors; and they probably hate each other.

It’s obvious that the culture of hate is thriving in our country, but just how bad is it? The Spring 2009 Intelligence Report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) gives us a clue. http://www.splcenter.org/intl/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=1027. The report, titled, “The Year in Hate” identifies immigration as a focus point for these groups. The report concluded that there were “926 hate groups active in the U.S., up more than 4% from 888 in 2007. That’s more than a 50% increase since 2000, when there were 602 groups.”

SPLC’s Intelligence Project, originally called Klan watch, was created in 1981 to gather information on the Klan but has now evolved into an effort to monitor domestic hate crimes and hate groups throughout the nation. The SPLC Intelligence Project is recognized as an acknowledged expert on U.S. hate activity.

These hate groups seem to be everywhere, many hiding behind the electronic mask of the internet, not subject to complete discovery by the hate trackers. One thing is certain, the anti-immigration movement has become a foundation for the existence of these extremist and white supremacist groups.

For an interesting read on what SPLC has to say about the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), go to http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2007/12/11/fair-crossing-the-rubicon-of-hate&splcnewsletter;=panewsgen-121107/.

There are also those who spew venomous attacks on immigration advocates in comment and discussion sections following internet media stories. While we certainly guarantee the right to free speech in this country, it’s often difficult to distinguish between their hate messages and legal extremist opinions. They live on the edge of illegality, they are loud and they are being heard.

I previously believed we could eradicate hate through education. Unfortunately, even some of the educated are falling prey to the message of the hate mongers. I am now convinced we must be more vocal and louder than those with twisted minds. We need to post our messages of tolerance, loyalty and compassion to this country and the principles upon which it was founded. We need to blog, publish and be heard. It’s time for each of us to engage the hate.

T. Douglas Stump