In 2007, a group calling itself Vietnamese for Fair Immigration (now defunct) was exposed as a front group for radical and racist individuals with ties to white supremacy groups. The spokesperson, Tim Binh (real name Tim Brummer), turned out to be a white, Southern California man who justified misrepresenting himself as a Vietnamese refugee by stating, “I speak Vietnamese. I eat Vietnamese food. I live with Vietnamese. In my mind, I’m half Vietnamese.”
The anti-immigrant John Tanton Network did something similar when it essentially put on blackface and created Choose Black America (CBA), also defunct. While it had an African American, Ted Hayes, serve as a front person, the real spokesperson was Ira Mehlman, the media director at Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Mehlman is also listed as the contact person for You Don’t Speak for Me, the “Latino” front for the John Tanton Network.
Now there is Tanton’s “patriotic” front group, Veterans for Secure Borders. Although Tanton had the opportunity to serve in the military during the Vietnam War, his resume does not show that he ever did. Unlike Choose Black America and You Don’t Speak for Me, Veterans for Secure Borders does not list Mehlman as its spokesperson; instead its website is registered directly to John Tanton.
There have been many immigrants – Americans by choice – who have done and continue to do what Tanton did not: put their lives on the line in service to our country. Even knowing the hardships their family members face, thousands of immigrants who have spouses or close relatives who are undocumented continue to defend the principles of equality and justice this country stands for. Not all of the immigrants who served were authorized to be in the country but they were willing to defend it.
I come from a family with a long history of military service, including active duty in WWI, WWII, and Korea. I find it offensive that someone who chose not to serve his country in war or peacetime would wrap themselves in the American flag and use the brave service of others as a smokescreen for his bigoted anti-immigrant views.