BY KATY CHEN
When we learned Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, was coming to speak at HLS as part of a Journal on Legislation panel on border security and immigration reform, we were skeptical. We knew that the Minuteman Project sends groups of armed individuals to the U.S.-Mexico border to look out for people attempting to cross over to the United States. We also knew that some of those Minutemen had posted a video to YouTube in which an immigrant is seen in the crosshairs of a gun, then shot as two narrators express their satisfaction at doing so. The Minutemen later admitted the video was fake, but the hatred was clearly real. So we were curious to see whether Mr. Gilchrist, the leader of a group of would-be vigilantes, could offer useful commentary on immigration policy.
Mr. Gilchrist’s remarks at the panel discussion can only be described as bizarre. His four co-panelists, all experts in the field of immigration law and policy, debated with each other about recent developments in immigration legislation. Mr. Gilchrist, in contrast, explained that the United States was under invasion from Mexican immigrants, who were secretly plotting to elect pro-Mexico political officials with agendas hostile to the United States. He had other news for us as well: Mexican immigrants “have no connection with this country or its heritage,” and marches in Los Angeles in which someone holds up a Mexican flag are actually declarations that “we’re taking over.” Mr. Gilchrist explained that he wanted to “preserve this country as a civilized nation for another three centuries,” which apparently requires keeping armed vigil at the border.
As the other panelists discussed the U.S.-generated demand for immigrant labor, the practice of detaining asylum-seekers, and the need to increase ways for immigrants to enter the U.S. legally, Mr. Gilchrist exhibited a dearth of knowledge of basic issues in immigration law enforcement and policymaking, and spent much of his speaking time warning the students in the audience that we would pay the price for the Mexican invasion. Audible laughter at several of Mr. Gilchrist’s comments indicated the level of absurdity of his allegations.Mr. Gilchrist relied on fear-mongering tactics throughout the panel discussion, creating an unwelcome distraction from what was otherwise a lively and intelligent discourse on immigration policy. A quick Google search indicates that Mr. Gilchrist often uses such techniques. Numerous interviews with Mr. Gilchrist, and a book he co-authored with Jerome Corsi (author of The Obama Nation), refer to the supposed invasion of the United States by Mexican immigrants-a modern Trojan Horse invasion with the ultimate aim of leading the southwestern U.S. to secede and join Mexico, according to his book.
While Mr. Gilchrist has every right to speak at Harvard, and the Journal on Legislation has every right to invite any speaker of their choosing, Mr. Gilchrist’s appearance at HLS benefited no one but himself. After failing to make a substantive contribution to the panel, Mr. Gilchrist returned home and published an account of the discussion on the Minuteman Project’s website that depicts an entirely different event. In Mr. Gilchrist’s creative retelling, the audience broke into spontaneous applause on two separate occasions after his comments. Repeated viewings of the video recording of the panel have yet to reveal this rousing applause. Mr. Gilchrist is also billing himself as “the perfect guest” for radio talk shows after his appearance at HLS. While he is certainly profiting from the publicity afforded by his appearance at Harvard, he has yet to demonstrate his value as a contributor to the ongoing debate on immigration policy.
Katy Glenn and Ting Chen are 3Ls.