Activists demand action against border vigilantes

TUSCON, Ariz. – Border residents are demanding that gun-toting vigilantes and immigrant-hunting parties operating on the Arizona-Mexico border be investigated and stopped. Violent actions by these hate groups have escalated in spite of Arizona’s anti-militia law, State Land Department Lease guidelines and countless reports of human rights abuses.

Over 2,000 signatures of border residents, taken in only two weeks, were presented here to Ariz. Attorney General Terry Goddard on April 9 by a delegation that included representatives from Border Action Network, the American Civil Liberties Union, ranchers and a Cochise County supervisor.

“[Goddard] has the power to stop the vigilante groups. We will work until we see that happen,” said Jennifer Allen, director of the Border Action Network.

Activists in the delegation, who came from the Southern Arizona communities of Douglas, Bisbee, Benson, Arivaca, Nogales, and Tucson, charged that vigilantes have acted with impunity, impersonating the U.S. Border Patrol, illegally detaining people at gunpoint and causing bloodshed and death. The border residents say that in spite of these illegal activities, little action has been taken by local authorities.

“It is clear that the Attorney General’s office needs to give more attention to the investigation of these vigilante groups,” said Father Bob Karney, representing Bishop Kicanes of the Diocese of Tucson. “This is a serious issue. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for a response.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has called for FBI investigation of these hate groups and their funding ties, stating, “Cockroaches don’t like it when you shine a light on them.”

The author can be reached at susan@susanthorpe.com