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Save Our State, the in-your-face anti-illegal immigration group, was thrilled. Its long-held desire to forge ties to the black community was at last to be realized.
Invited to speak to a black community forum in Leimert Park this month, SOS founder Joseph Turner was sure that by the time he finished expressing his outrage about the impact of illegal immigration on jobs, schools and neighborhoods, Save Our State would have new, equally outraged allies.
But it was not to be. Turner’s invitation was rescinded shortly after it became public. The story of how and why that happened says much about how heated the debate over immigration policy has become in black communities in Southern California and how much the tone of that debate has discomfited many black leaders.
Hutchinson’s group has become an influential forum in South Los Angeles. Politicians and school officials make it a first stop when reaching out to blacks. Pro-immigration groups were outraged that Turner might gain such a well-known platform, and they were determined to stop him.
They vowed to protest. Hutchinson was bombarded with angry e-mail. A liberal advocacy group sent him a five-page letter of “concerns” outlining what it called Save Our State’s “violent, hateful, racist actions.” Hutchinson invited immigration advocates to present their side at the meeting, but none would share the podium with Turner.
Hutchinson, who said he had barely heard of SOS when Turner asked to come to the group, began to have second thoughts. He perused the SOS website and says he was repelled. He decided to withdraw the invitation.
One statement on the website, in particular, has stayed with him. It reads:
“Aren’t you tired of watching your state turn into a Third World cesspool right before your eyes?”
“That is calling people of color scum and garbage,” he said. “You essentially are calling me that, too. I think there is a racist tinge.”
“Jobs,” he said. “It all comes back to jobs. If Turner came, I believe he would have a huge constituency, a huge wellspring of sympathy and support,” Hutchinson said. “He would be met with thunderous applause.”
Hutchinson says he has seen firsthand the frustration among blacks at illegal immigration. At his meetings, the subject keeps coming up. The topic of the discussion could be autism or homelessness or relations between the community and the police. “About a year ago, I started noticing that no matter what the subject is, illegal immigration comes up,” he said.
Turner hopes that is correct, and he is certain that his movement can forge a bridge to South L.A. “Rightly or wrongly, we’re seen as being a bunch of angry … white guys,” he said. “But I’ve always wanted to work with the black community. Our movement needs to enlarge the tent to include people who are Hispanic, Asians, rich, poor, Democrats, Republicans, gay, straight, whatever.”
(Posted on August 12, 2005)