Wake Up, America!

Infiltrator works his way into an anti-immigration petition drive -- at a gun show

With a whistle on my lips, a song in my heart, and maybe even a skip in my step, I saunter by a sign that reads "No Loaded Guns Past This Point." I've arrived at the Cow Palace for the "Crossroads of the West Gun Show." I'm here to infiltrate a group called FAIR, the Federation for American Immigrant Reform.I'm going by the patriotic name Franklin Washington and wearing an American flag bandanna and a T-shirt that reads "I Support Desert Storm."

I became interested in FAIR when I saw a disturbing documentary, Farmingville. The film focuses on a suburban Long Island town to which 1,500 Mexican workers had immigrated. The locals do their best imitation of Southern rednecks, attempting to run the immigrants off. Helping them was FAIR.

At the Cow Palace, FAIR has arranged to have a booth where it can solicit signatures for a petition that would put Proposition 187 on the ballot. Prop. 187 would Save Our Licenses. I'd learned about the measure in an earlier telephone conversation with Carol, a kindly sounding grandmother type.

"Since it's a gun show, there shouldn't be a problem getting people to sign," Carol had said, noting that there'd been a protest about the proposition. "Some people said it was racist."

"It's not racist," I gleefully injected. "It's just American!"

"The main issues are," Carol continued, "we're against driver's licenses for illegal aliens, no public benefits for illegal aliens, no welfare. And no college tuition."

I responded by uttering my new, soon-to-be-overused catchphrase: "What part of 'illegal' don't they understand?"

Inside the Cow Palace, big bellies abound. I maneuver around them and find the FAIR table next to a row of assault weapons, rifles, and samurai swords, a few rows down from a booth selling Nazi flags and pictures of Hitler. The table's easy to find: It's marked with a huge sign reading "NO DRIVERS LICENSES FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS!"

FAIR's crew is composed entirely of retirees. It's a ragamuffin bunch, kind of a retarded crime-fighting team from another dimension, set upon this Earth to rid America of those pesky illegal aliens with their funny music and crazy hats. Approaching Carol, Roy, Tom, and Kay, I try to make a good first impression by announcing, immediately, "What part of 'illegal' don't they understand?"

Roy is clearly the leader. Taking me under his wing, he explains, "We need 600,000 signatures to get Proposition 187 on the ballot." Roy then turns suddenly intense to make the point as to why illegal aliens shouldn't have driver's licenses. "It sends a message," Roy says. "It says, 'You got to go home, I don't want you here.'"

Kay is wearing an American flag pendant and seems, at first glance, like someone you'd see baking pies and setting them out to cool on a windowsill. "I can hardly pay for health care, now I have to pay for theirs, too?!" she says with seething bitterness.

"You now have to be bilingual to work at RadioShack," Tom comments as I pick at my elbow. "My son can only speak one language, and he can't even get hired there."

"What part of 'illegal' don't they understand!" I say again for effect.

"What do you do for a living?" Tom asks.

"I'm a puppeteer!" I answer with pride, moving my hand like I'm operating a marionette.

The other members of our little group nod their heads in agreement until Roy interrupts, spewing disgust, enraged that Prop. 187 has not already qualified for the ballot. "Ever since the feminist movement," he says, "the legislation has been all wrapped up in women's issues!"

My task today is to approach some of the scariest people known to humanity and ask them to sign our petition. With clipboard in hand, Roy shows me the ropes.

"Just say to people, 'If this is an issue that concerns you, please sign our petition.'"

With that, Roy swarms down on a man in a black wife-beater T-shirt; he looks like he runs his own country in the woods.

"Come on! Let's get you signed up!"

"Hell ya! Hell ya!" exclaims the scary man, who signs. As an aside he adds, "I wish they'd tighten up the borders!"

It's my turn, so I ask a sweaty paranoid man with shifting eyes, "Will you sign our petition to prevent illegal aliens from getting driver's licenses?"

"I don't put my signature on ANYTHING!" he barks, then disappears into the crowd of gun lovers.

Roy is immediately critical. "You're letting them get away!" he moans.

For the most part, though, the gun crowd loves our cause.

"It's fucking bullshit. Those liberal bastards," rants a crusty old man, shaking his head in disgust.

"Wake up, America!" I contribute.

"Tell me about it. I worked for the INS for 20 years. Big dummies," he says. "I'm going to get my friend to sign this."

"If I were in charge," a guy with a big belly and a bulbous nose and a rifle strapped to his back fantasizes, "nobody would be getting through. NOBODY!"

He hands me back my clipboard.

"Save our jobs!" I proclaim.

"Save our country!" he adds.

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