Anti-Immigration Group Claims Neo-Nazis Involved in Tancredo Rally

| Wed May 19, 2010 1:30 PM EDT

Americans for Legal Immigration PAC is rarely afraid to offend. The right-wing group, known as ALIPAC, has accused illegal immigrants of putting the US "on a path to anarchy" by "lying, cheating, and stealing," and recently claimed that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had been blackmailed into working on immigration reform because of his alleged homosexuality. But even ALIPAC draws the line somewhere. The group says it is withdrawing its support from any rallies supporting the Arizona law next month "due to the discovery of racist group involvement and the actions of former Congressman Tom Tancredo," who is keynoting a June 5 anti-immigration rally in Phoenix. ALIPAC singles out the lead organizer of the rally, Dan Smeriglio of Voice of the People USA, for associating with members of neo-Nazi groups online, and goes after Tancredo for defending Smerglio:

The video and screen shots of Dan Smeriglio's Facebook account indicates that he has willingly been working with members or racist skin head groups long after he knew their identities and politics. In fact, Dan's Facebook profile, which remains his main way of broadcasting a rally for June 5, promoted one of Europe's most popular neo-Nazi rock groups until a few days ago…

Unfortunately, our plans to get the skinheads out and away from the Phoenix effort was thwarted, when retired Congressman Tom Tancredo, who had self titled himself as the 'key note speaker' at the June 5 event started telling leaders and candidates to come back to the June 5 rally. Tancredo even claimed that ALIPAC's concerns about Dan Smeriglio were false, when he had not reviewed the video and screen shots which we find to be fairly conclusive.

Smeriglio has denied the accusations that he sympathized or worked with neo-Nazi groups. On the webpage for his organization, he writes that he was "outraged, disgusted, and angry" when he learned these individualas were among his 2,000-plus friends on Facebook—one of whom, Steve Smith, heads up a Pennsylvania-based skinhead group called Keystone United. Tancredo similarly dismisses the charges: "I have 5,000 quote-unquote friends, and I have no idea who 98 percent of them are....So I don't think any of this rises to the level of concern." ALIPAC alleges, however, that Smeriglio had long known about Smith’s neo-Nazi affiliations, citing a video clip from a 2009 anti-immigration rally in Pennsylvania, where they both appeared together.

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ALIPAC's allegations that Smeriglio has been actively collaborating with skinheads—based primarily on Facebook friends and fan pages—seem tenuous indeed. And ALIPAC leader William Gheen is infamous for his sensationalistic claims. Yet it's a clear sign that even a groups as hardline as ALIPAC seem to have become increasingly sensitive to accusations of racism. ALIPAC has been the target of such criticisms in the past, with groups such as the Anti-Defamation League claiming that white supremacists have promoted ALIPAC and taken action on its behalf. And the intersection between anti-immigration groups and fringe white nationalists goes back decades, as Leonard Zizkind and Chris Hayes have explained.

Liberal immigration and civil rights groups routinely bring up this linkages: the Southern Poverty Law Center, for example, has designated of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) as a “hate group” because of its ties to purportedly nativist groups and leaders. But when one anti-immigrant faction implicates another for guilt by association, it gives more credence to the claim that racist extremists are latching on to the anti-immigration revival. And such support, even on the fringes, threatens to create a rift within an anti-immigration movement that’s trying to broaden its appeal to a mainstream audience.