On May 17, a vehicle was pulled over for a traffic violation in the former sundown town of Pekin, Illinois. In an article posted by Justin Glawe in the American Doom newsletter and published in conjunction with Rolling Stone, 34-year-old Dalton Mattus was a passenger in the vehicle when police say they found a canvas bag under his seat. After an officer asked Mattus what was in the bag, Mattus responded saying they would have to get a warrant to search it.

Police then took the bag and let Mattus leave while they obtained a warrant. Once they opened the bag they found a handgun and two homemade pipe bombs loaded with BBs. Mattus, who is a felon, was charged with felon in possession of a weapon, prompting officers to go to his house and arrest him. But not before a standoff at the home where they found more pipe bombs.

While police haven’t said anything about what they thought Mattus was going to use the pipe bombs for, he did tell them that he had them for protection from “undocumented immigrants and a corrupt government,” according to a local radio station. And despite police saying he’s not a threat to the general public, a judge thought otherwise and denied Mattus pretrial release.

His social media suggests he fell into the far-right conspiracy theory rabbit hole as COVID was wreaking havoc on the world’s population. It seems to have begun with the anti-lockdown protests that I helped expose as far-right hate group-driven events. Those so-called “protests” were riddled with a coalition of conspiracy theorists that peddled everything including rantings about chemtrails, QAnon, election lies, and various anti-government ramblings.

But the bigger problem here is noted in his fear of immigrants, Latino immigrants in particular.

I say Latino immigrants because the nature of the anti-immigrant rhetoric we hear in politics, on social media, and in the news media is Latnophobic in nature. Everyone in the United States knows precisely what I’m talking about. When you hear the term “illegal immigrant” everyone automatically thinks of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants. We see and hear it.

There are at least two reasons for this.

The first is that most people know in the back of their minds that Latin American and Caribbean asylum-seekers come to the United States largely because of oppressive U.S. policy in the region. The second is because of the language used, the countries mentioned, and the people mentioned in news stories represent Latin American and Caribbean Islanders. Even right-wing fears of Middle Eastern, Chinese, and African immigrants were short-lived.

Conspiracy theory about ‘importing’ immigrants to rig the presidential election found recently on encrypted social media channels

The language remains centered around Latin American immigrants due to outright fears of the browning of America bolstered by statistics that show Latinos are now outnumbering white people – ever so slightly – in places like Texas. You don’t have to look far to see where (and why) Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s extreme xenophobic anti-Latino policies started. It could be argued that this is where the public’s perceptions and corporate media narratives shifted too.

It’s also no secret why the hateful rhetoric and charged language like “illegal aliens” are never used against white undocumented immigrants or asylum seekers. The silence about Ukrainian refugees being moved to the front of the line and entering the U.S. via the southern border has been noted. So have the accommodations made for tens of thousands of them in New York as Black and brown immigrants were left on the streets.

Everyone from the mayor of New York City to Congresspersons to shitheels like Curtis Sliwa of the Guardian Angels employed charged and racist language against those migrants left to suffer. They hype up dehumanizing rhetoric that is later echoed by others online and in the news as many journalists pretend they’re not being hyperbolic by using softer terms like “illegal immigrants” – terminology that only bolsters that used by bigots.

Meanwhile, they ignore that once a migrant has been processed and released into the country they are neither illegal nor documented. They are here legally based on the system that dates back to 1996 and are documented (obviously) because they are in said system. Regardless, it’s understandable why undocumented is considered acceptable for noncitizens considering any other rhetoric employs negative connotations that date back to the early days of the Ku Klux Klan.

Even when the media tries to be more humane in saying phrases like humanitarian crisis or border crisis they’re failing to address the xenophobic nature of their own rhetoric. Any time the word “crisis” is used (a word the news media loves in the West), they are bolstering ideas of invasions and grand conspiracies of Jewish people like George Soros are paying migrants to come to the U.S. through an intricate network of NGOs to help eliminate the white race.

This brings us back to Mattus. While he harbored the standard fear of government and anti-government beliefs heard among various extremists that have been around for decades and have never materialized, it’s hard to ignore his xenophobic sentiments. Of the two reasons he gave police for having pipe bombs, his fear of “undocumented immigrants” was the first.

As a member of the U.S. public who has had to endure the sight of countless mass shootings at the hands of racists, it should raise huge red flags. As a Latino, it’s especially difficult to ignore.

Every nonwhite community in the U.S. knows what it feels like to be targeted by the language racists use. We’ve all been targeted at one point or another. Most of the language was born of the anti-Blackness that is foundational in the country and some of the same tropes used against Black people have simply altered targets to focus on immigrants. The same could be said for the xenophobia that plagued the so-called “founding fathers” who also feared the end of the white race as they knew it – White Anglo-Saxon Protestants to be more precise.

A recent flyer from the Take Our Border Back group who organized a convoy to the border earlier this year in support of Texas Gov. Abbott.

Mattus reminds us that not long ago a convoy of far-extremists headed to Texas so they can support Gov. Abbott’s anti-immigrant policies. The convoy was driven by narratives across all media claiming that the governor was defying the Supreme Court and the Biden Administration despite him not doing either.

I reported on this broad misinformation debunking the narrative.

Mattus also reminds us that similar rhetoric used by lawmakers (and many in mainstream media) and used by former president Donald Trump was echoed by a mass shooter that killed 23 people in an El Paso Walmart. He reminds us that the current narratives and the lack of accountability in improperly reporting on immigration in the news media are leading more and more people toward anti-immigrant and blatantly racist paths.

We can ill afford to ignore actors like Mattus. Due to the broad scope of the Latinophobic anti-immigrant rhetoric we’re seeing, there is little doubt that there are more of them now than ever and they are everywhere and they are closer to you than you think. 

The Antagonist Magazine is a project made up of journalists, activists, and writers focused on amplifying the stories of marginalized communities. The goal is to educate the public by sharing narratives focused on independent voices. Born of an online community in 2019, our platform operates independently; free of corporate influence. Please consider supporting the work of dozens of writers from various communities.

Arturo Dominguez

Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice.

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