Our VoiceCulture

Hooded Sweatshirts, Shopping Carts, & Walking to Work: How to Profile an Undocumented Person, via the Ozarks Minutemen

Rev. David L. Ostendorf • Aug 31, 2011

In Springfield, Missouri, the Ozarks Minutemen suggest that “illegal aliens” can be identified by their “use of shopping carts to transport goods or carrying groceries long distances, store to home.”  Other identifiers include walking to work, walking with your head down, or wearing a hooded sweatshirt on a hot day.

Seriously? Yes, seriously.

The ever-diligent Minutemen are pushing a Springfield city ordinance to prohibit local businesses “specifically” from hiring “illegal aliens” and to require businesses to participate in the federal E-Verify program.  Based on certification of some 2,400 petition signatures, the ordinance has been considered at packed Council meetings in recent weeks and is scheduled for a vote next week.  Opposition to the proposed ordinance has been strong, vocal, and relentless; an anti-hate rally at yesterday’s City Council lunch meeting drew together civil and immigration rights participants alongside religious and civic leaders from across the state.

The Ozarks Minutemen self-identify as a “small local group of concerned citizens” not affiliated with the infamous Minutemen Civil Defense Corps.  Jerry Wilson, its communications director, is a retired Naval Aviator Commander whose piece “To All Americans: A Warning” has been pegged as a “must read” on numerous conservative blogs.

In his screed Wilson asserts that Barack Obama is a “Marxist” whose embrace of Saul Alinksy guides the President toward the “communist revolution” that only Wilson and a few other true patriots foresee; the rest of “the American public” is just plain ignorant, of course. The group includes a former Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) supervisor and tea partier who recorded that there are actually some 96 million “illegal aliens” in the US.

Yea, seriously.

Opposition to these and other local “immigration control” ordinances have been rolling across the country and are crucial to their initial defeats and ultimate demises. Legal defense bills incurred by municipalities that enact such ordinances have gotten the attention of many city councils: Hazelton, Pennsylvania’s $3 million plus in legal costs assured that; Farmers Branch, Texas doled out over $4 million in legal fees.

But municipal responses are frequently murky.

Springfield’s city attorney has indicated that he would “consult with” Kris Kobach of the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) – the legal arm of the John Tanton Network of anti-immigrant groups (click for our 2011 map detailing the Network) – to check out the impact of the Minutemen’s proposed ordinance in his community.  Kobach, who also serves as Kansas Secretary of State, is the attorney behind these and myriad other municipal anti-immigrant ordinances and state bills, including Arizona’s infamous SB 1070.

Getting his assessment of the Springfield ordinance is like asking the fox to reflect on the merits of chickens.

Heed this warning, Springfield.

And not Minuteman Jerry Wilson’s overheated “Warning,” either. But the warning implicit in the likely legal costs to be piled up if the Minutemen ordinance passes. And be careful, as well, about using shopping carts to carry your groceries or wearing hooded sweatshirts on a hot day. You never know if a Minuteman will be lurking the streets, looking to report you to ICE—based only on your behavior, of course, not your race.


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