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Murder in the Desert, Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Turns Violent

Jill Garvey • Jun 16, 2010

In addition to shootings of Latinos by Border Patrol agents, there have been mysterious shootings and even murders in Arizona deserts. Troubling details are emerging that suggest these attacks on Latinos are not drug-related, as often reported, but the work of violent border vigilantes.

In the wake of the uproar over the passage of racist SB 1070 in Arizona, border vigilantes like Barbara Coe and Glenn Spencer, just to name a few, are revving up their anti-immigrant rhetoric. In a trend that has disturbing parallels, several immigrants were targeted by camouflaged gunmen last week. And two Latino men were found murdered in the Arizona desert on June 6. Mainstream media reports pin the cause squarely on drug smuggling; however, bloggers who have followed the story continue to uncover suspicious details surrounding the murders. Foremost of which is that no drugs were found on or near the victims, but an automatic rifle commonly used by border patrol agents was. Also, the murders occurred within close proximity to the high-profile Pinal County shooting involving sheriff’s deputy Louie Puroll. Pinal County’s Sheriff Babeu is rivaling notorious Sheriff Joe in his quest to publicize his unfair vilification of immigrants.

Babeu recently told news outlets that “violence in Mexico from the drug cartels continues to spill over the border and deep into the heart of Arizona.” This is blatantly false. As confirmed by Department of Justice statistics, violent crime has steadily fallen in Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Texas, all border states. It’s also important to note that Babeu’s county is located 90 miles away from the border. Furthermore, it isn’t even known whether the victims are undocumented immigrants or U.S. citizens. In a tragic reminder of Arizona’s current climate of fear, one man was carrying his birth certificate, but it was too soaked with blood to help identify him.

The murders occurred just one day after Barbara Coe of the anti-immigrant group California Coalition for Immigration Reform told the crowd of a Phoenix anti-immigrant rally, “It is now our responsibility to stand up and be counted. This is our turning point. The traitors have underestimated the power of Americans. No mas. … God forbid it should come to this but if it should come to this, lock and load.”

In the more recent attack on immigrants in Santa Cruz County near Parker. Canyon, more details are available. According to Sheriff Tony Estrada, deputies received a call on Friday, June 11, from a group of five undocumented immigrants who said they were shot at by two men wearing camouflage and using high-powered rifles. One of the immigrants was shot in the arm. The U.S. Border Patrol searched the area but were unable to locate the shooters. The victims also reported finding a corpse near where the shooting occurred. Deputies located the remains of one man and are investigating the cause of death.

Minutemen and border patrol groups have long attracted members with extreme ideologies who feel justified in taking the law into their own hands. While most claim that their activities are non-violent, their collective history tell a different story.

Just last year, Shawna Forde, leader of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, along with two accomplices attacked a Latino family in their home near the border, killing a young girl and her father. Forde was apprehended by the FBI as she left the home of Glenn Spencer. He downplayed his relationship with her, but the fact remains that when Forde was on the run for murder she went to Spencer for help.

Even more troubling is the relationship between border vigilante groups and influential anti-immigrant groups like Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Shawna Forde was identified as a FAIR representative in a video of a panel discussion on immigration (FAIR denied the affiliation after her arrest.)

CIS, founded by John Tanton in 1985, describes itself as a “think tank” and “pro-immigrant”; however, last summer it released a press statement and videos demonstrating that it collaborates with controversial border vigilantes. The press release linked readers to a website called Borderinvasionpics.com. This site operates in conjunction with American Patrol, Glenn Spencer’s anti-immigrant group.

According to Long Island Wins, “Glenn Spencer is a long-time anti-immigrant leader with a large national following. He helped organize some of the first “border watch” activities that led to the creation of Minuteman nationally.”

Glenn Spencer is also involved with American Renaissance, a white supremacist monthly journal and website run by Jared Taylor. That wasn’t the first time one of John Tanton’s organizations was found to have ties to Glenn Spencer. According to the Center for New Community, John Tanton indicated in a 2000 letter that he gave Glenn Spencer $40,000 in support of his work in California.

This illustrates that the Tanton Network has a significant role in creating a political climate that feeds anti-immigrant hysteria. And whether anti-immigrant rhetoric comes from overt racists like Barbara Coe or beltway groups like FAIR and CIS, there is no denying its impact.

As the most recent instances of violence against Latinos are investigated, the violent rhetoric of anti-immigrant extremists should not be ignored. Lives may depend on it.

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