KKK in El Paso due to immigration issue

El Paso Times/March 27, 2008

The argument over illegal immigration is fueling the growth of groups such as a Ku Klux Klan chapter that popped up in El Paso last year but has since disappeared, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which tracks hate groups.

A chapter of the Bayou Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is shown in El Paso in a map of hate groups recently published by the Intelligence Project.

"We know from their Web site that there was a Bayou Knights chapter created there (in El Paso) last year," said Intelligence Project director Mark Potok. He said the KKK branch might have been as small as one member.

The Bayou Knights listed a headquarters in Smackover, Ark., and 14 chapters, mostly in Texas and Louisiana.

"Somewhere toward the end of 2007, they (the Bayou Knights) joined a new group, the United White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, just another small Klan faction," Potok said in a telephone interview from the center offices in Montgomery, Ala.

The United White Knights do not show a chapter in El Paso, Potok said. "It very likely disappeared. It's perfectly possible it just went out of business. Maybe this guy moved away," he said.

Sgt. Reginald Moton of the El Paso police Gang Unit said there was no known Klan chapter in the city. A local FBI spokeswoman said law enforcement would monitor such groups only if they were suspected of criminal activity or civil-rights violations.

In the early 1920s, the KKK had about 3,500 members in El Paso, including prominent businessmen, school board members and a candidate for mayor defeated in one of the dirtiest elections in local history, El Paso Times archives showed.

At the time, the Klan was at the height of its national power, claiming 2 million members, including 14 U.S. senators.

There are now only about 6,000 to 7,000 Klan members in dozens of competing factions across the nation, Potok said. Klan membership has dropped in recent years even as the total number of hate groups across the country grew to 888 last year.

"The debate over immigration - in particular in the way it has become very ugly over the years - has fueled the growth of these groups," Potok said.

The largest growth has been in California, Arizona and Texas. California leads the nation in the number of active hate groups with 80, followed by Texas with 67, the Intelligence Project stated.

"Every two or three weeks there is a demonstration," Potok said. "They are almost always now over illegal immigration."

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