USA Today is reporting that “…the white-power movement is changing its marketing strategy to broaden its appeal.” And immigrants are at the core of its new business model.

Skinheads, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan members are all joining the anti-immigrant bandwagon in an attempt to better “market” themselves to “middle America.” Jeff Schoep, head of the largest neo-Nazi group in the U.S.—The National Socialist Movement—disturbingly explained:

“Historically, when times get tough in our nation, that’s how movements like ours gain a foothold…When the economy suffers, people are looking for answers…We are the answer for white people…And now this immigrant thing in the past couple of years has been the biggest boon to us…The immigration issue is the biggest problem we’re facing because it’s changing the face of our country. We see stuff in English and Spanish. … They are turning our country into a Third World ghetto.”

Civil rights groups are saying that such groups are “scapegoating” immigrants and minorities for problems with crime and the economy and that their rhetoric has taken an “incredible shift from anti-black diatribes” toward hatred directed at Latinos. The FBI has released a report showing a 40% increase in anti-Latino hate crimes as the number of white supremacist groups has spiraled from 602 in 2000 to 888 last year — a 48% increase as a result of the “exploitation of non-white immigration.”
Such hateful and inflammatory rhetoric has had a most notable and devastating effect on Latinos—both immigrant and native-born. In September, members of Keystone State United (formerly the Keystone State Skinheads), a white nationalist group, joined a rally against illegal immigration in Shenandoah that was organized just shortly after four high school football players were accused of shouting ethnic slurs at Luis Ramirez—a Mexican immigrant—before a brawl erupted and Ramirez was killed. Just this month, Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadoran immigrant living in Long Island, was senselessly stabbed to death by a group of seven teenagers, who police say were specifically looking to kill a Hispanic.

Whether these hatemongering groups call themselves Nazis or white nationalists, our country is better than that. During this time of national hardship, Americans need to remember that our nation rests on the principles of freedom and tolerance—through good times and bad. Debate, discussion, and disagreement around the pressing immigration issue are natural, legitimate, and necessary. Hate, fear and vitriol rhetoric are not.