Sunday, June 20, 2010

Border Violence And Immigration: Arizonans Invert Reality, Turn A Blind Eye To Vigilantes Murdering Latinos

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

[Note: Video not really safe for work. But true.]

There was a funny smell to the way Arizona's police-state immigration law was passed -- especially the way factions with ties to white supremacists whipped up the phantom menace of a wave of crime associated with illegal immigration, focusing on the still-unsolved murder of a border rancher named Robert Krentz, even though officially the crime is being laid at the doorstep of Mexican drug cartels -- but even on that score, the truth is unclear at best. Notably, the Arizona Daily star reports that the chief suspect in the crime lives in the USA, not in Mexico.

Moreover, as Sam Seder acidly observes, the entire claim that crime has skyrocketed in Arizona is so much cattle offal. In fact, violent crime in Arizona has been steadily declining in recent years.

It kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it, why Arizonans -- and particularly the Arizona media, not to mention the national media -- never picked up on the case of Shawna Forde and her gang of rogue Minutemen, who invaded the home of a Latino family near the border in Arizona and shot them, killing the father and his 9-year-old daughter in cold blood as she pleaded for her life, and wounding the mother -- who managed to get her own gun and shoot back, wounding one of the killers.

Even more incredible, really, is that this 911 call from the wounded mother received so little attention at the time, much less that it did not become a focus of Arizonans fretting about violent crime:

What brings all this into laser focus is what's actually happening right now on the Arizona border: Latinos (some of them American citizens bearing blood-soaked birth certificates) are being shot and killed, and it's beginning to appear that white vigilantes -- not Mexican drug gangs -- are doing the killing.

The shootings that first raised this likelihood occurred a little over a week ago in Pinal County, where two Latino men who called 911 pleading for help, saying they had been shot, were found dead near a locale where a sheriff's deputy had reportedly been wounded by drug smugglers on the border (though many questions remain about that incident as well).

Initially, as you can see both from the Arizona Republic report above, as well as from the local TV coverage, the crime was blamed on "drug smugglers."

But Jill Garvey at Imagine 2050 reports that something far more insidious may be involved:
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.
Perhaps the most disturbing incident occurred on June 12, as Dee Perez-Scott at Immigration Talk With a Mexican-American reports:
At 5:00 am on Friday, June 12, five undocumented migrants who had crossed into the United States and were walking through the canyon near Rio Rico, AZ., were shot at with a high powered rifle by two unidentified white males wearing camouflage clothing.

"The victims claimed no demands were made. They were just walking and fired upon,” said Sheriff Antonio Estrada. Estrada said when the group ran away from the shooters, one of the men, Manuel Esquer Gomez, 45, from Nogales, Sonora sustained a gunshot wound to the left forearm. As the group continued to run, the men stumbled upon skeletal remains of what they thought were two people.

Deputies from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, along with a U.S. Border Patrol special response team and air support, responded and found the skeletal remains of one man. Documents found on the man identified him as Alberto Donato Lopez, 40, from Puebla, Mexico. Lopez’s body was taken to the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office in Tucson to determine the cause of death.

“It is unknown at this time if the deceased was killed or died of natural causes,” Estrada said. “There’s always a concern that these people could possibly be victims of violence.” Estrada said the Border Patrol tracked footprints from the scene of the shooting, but no suspects were found. “At this point we don’t know who they are,” said Estrada. “It’s perturbing to hear of people with high-powered rifles and camouflage. It raises some real red flags.”
Just as disturbing -- and almost certainly not coincidentally -- is the news, from Stephen Lemons at Phoenix New Times, that some of Russell Pearce's neo-Nazi pals intend to start patrolling the border with weapons:
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu recently announced that "drug cartels" control the area in his county where deputy Louie Puroll was allegedly shot at, and where two men were recently gunned down.
Now Babeu may be getting some assistance from an unwelcome and unsavory source: Vigilantes led by National Socialist Movement member J.T. Ready.

As I blogged back in May, Ready and fellow neo-Nazi Harry Hughes have been going on illegal alien "patrols" in Pinal County's Vekol Valley, dressed in camouflage and armed with assault rifles.

Now Ready has announced a "Border Ops" alert for this Saturday via his profile on the white supremacist New Saxon site, inviting participants to "bring plenty of firearms and ammo."

"Camouflage or earth tone clothing [is] preferred," according to the announcement. "Bandanas, balaclavas, or other identity concealing items are permissible and encouraged."

Ready's statement promises that, "This is the Minuteman Project on steroids! THE INVASION STOPS HERE!"
Be sure to read the whole thing -- it's frightening and disturbing and important. As our good friend Sara Robinson observes at
First: this a perfect example of how right-wing vigilantism, once permitted, quickly escalates. The Minutemen weren't uniformed, only casually armed, and careful to cloak their deep racism -- though it tended to leak out at inopportune moments anyway. Now, because we enabled and tolerated that, we've got self-proclaimed Nazis down there in full battle dress, carrying military weapons and telling us quite openly that they're on a mission to cleanse the country of the brown scourge. If Arizona officials -- already overwhelmed by a situation that they're getting no federal help in resolving -- don't find a way to stop these guys, they're creating the conditions for the paramilitary right-wing scene on their border to become the national breeding ground for a full-on armed militia movement -- a movement that could, in time, endanger the whole country.

Second: This is also the next step down the road for the state of Arizona as a whole. They've put the country on notice that they're just fine, thank you, with being the State of Hate -- and in doing so, opened the door to the whole national circus of haters. Ready and his National Socialists are out front of that parade, but you can bet that there's a long line of acts queuing up to come out to the desert and follow them. (Note to Gov. Jan Brewer: be careful what you wish for, for you will surely get it.)

... This is what we know about hate groups: they are an evil that can only flourish where good people do nothing. The State of Arizona is now issuing what amount to official engraved invitations to the country's far-right vigilantes, sovereign citizens, would-be fascists, self-styled "patriots" (we need to take that word back, seriously), and paranoid race warriors. They cannot be surprised when people like J.T. Ready and his New Saxons take them up on the offer.

And their choice demands a response from everybody in the other forty-nine as well. No American state has voluntarily chosen to go down this path since the KKK takeover of Indiana and Oregon in the 1920s. And when hate holds that much state power, the only way it stops is when the voters of Arizona decide they've had enough, and vote the bastards out of office.
(It's a great, thoughtful post -- again, be sure to read it all.)

Arizonans have fundamentally turned the situation on it head by indulging in the lowest form of hysteria: by freaking out about crime caused by Latinos, they have in fact unleashed a wave of vigilante crime against those same people. Even if they don't already regret this spasm, they will.