erry Odom has reserved a public meeting room in the back of the Greenville library for one o'clock. Almost as soon as I walk in, a gentleman in a white hat and long white beard hands me a copy of a skinny tabloid entitled The Truth (second "T" in the shape of a cross) and hits me up for a one-dollar donation.
In the back of the room, Terry hangs red, white, and blue bunting on a long table displaying various pieces of literature, including the Phyllis Schlafly Report on immigration. Eventually a crowd of fifty settles into their seats.
The meeting begins with an invocation delivered by the minister of the Odoms' Baptist church. An older gentleman with gleaming white hair, the preacher starts out behind the lectern. But as he warms to the crowd he moves out to the side, hooks his left thumb into his belt, picks up his Bible, and holds it in the air. "Where do you go in the Bible to substantiate an argument on immigration?" he asks. "Well, I believe Jesus states it well when he states, 'I am the good shepherd. I am the door of the sheep. The sheep know my voice and I know their voice, and they enter in and out and have good pasture.' Amen! But if any man tries to enter in another way, some way he feels like is better than what God says, then he is nothing short of a thief and a robber. A lot of people are not going to heaven when they die, because they said 'phooey' to what Jesus said."
The keynote address is by James M. Staudenraus, eastern regional field director for FAIR. Staudenraus is a tall, personable man with a wholesome, all-American face and blond hair, wearing a blue blazer with an American flag pin in the lapel. When I met him a few minutes earlier to ask for an interview, he gave me a booklet detailing the organization's environmental arguments and told me his speech would answer most of my questions. But the message he's delivering now doesn't have a word in it about the environment. Instead, he tells us he's going to "connect the dots" between illegal immigration and September 11 -- "because there's a very, very clear connection."
Among the topics Staudenraus covers: INS incompetence; how globalism, GATT, and NAFTA encourage the flow of cheap immigrant labor to serve the needs of big business; and the "bilingual education racket," a business that "depends on a whole bunch of people coming to this country who don't speak a word of English." Then he turns his attention to the media. "Blinded by their obsession with diversity," he explains, "the news media viciously attack us in the immigration reform movement.
"Let me tell you the thermonuclear response the next time someone calls you a racist," he continues. "You ask them this question: 'Are you saying a person's race gives them the right to come to our country and break our laws?' They'll slink out of the room like you just took their spine out." The audience claps, and Staudenraus is stirred by the applause. "That's exactly what they're saying," he emphasizes. "If a person breaks the law and he's not white like you" -- he is apparently oblivious to the lone African-American in the audience -- "you have to just let that happen." Then comes the finale: September 11 has changed the immigration debate. "In the wake of the terrorist attacks," Staudenraus tells us, "I think that more Americans understand what you do -- that our immigration system is completely broken. Three thousand people were murdered, and all of a sudden we can talk about why."
One of the few mostly coherent, consistent speakers is Mark Thies, a Clemson University professor of chemical engineering whom Terry has billed as the environment expert. Thies, a wiry, intelligent man wearing a polo shirt, is a longtime member of the Sierra Club and an enthusiastic whitewater canoer. His genuine concerns are forest fragmentation and sprawl. Halfway through, however, he abruptly switches to the growth of state elementary school programs for students for whom English is a second language.
After the rally, some of us adjourn to Prime Sirloin, a huge cafeteria with an all-you-can-eat buffet for $7.99. The talk of immigration is generously interlaced with bits and pieces about the Confederate flag, abortion, states' rights, property rights, Pat Buchanan, and George W. Bush's betrayal of America.