I spent last weekend at la casa del sol, visiting my parents. Soon after I got there, I was combing through the Sierra Vista Herald, the local paper that is mostly good-for-nothing. What first caught my eye: Cochise Country rancher Roger Barnett, who is infamous for holding "illegals" that cross his property at gunpoint until the Border Patrol arrives, is quoted as calling MALDEF a "subversive, race-based organization wanting to destroy the United States... [that goes out of its way] to do what they think is the best for illegals." SV Herald, 8march2005 This is where I come from.
Now, enter the Minutemen, an organization seeking to bring 500 vigilantes to the border to create a human barrier across the border to stop the "invasion" of Mexican immigrants. The ACLU has pledged to send volunteers to watch for human rights abuses. cite. This thing is a tinderbox, stay tuned.
Today, back in Flag, this comes my way:
I am writing to see if you might be interested in joining me as a legal observer following volunteers for the 'Minuteman Project.' The Minuteman Project is an open-call for persons who feel that our 'nation is being devoured and plundered by the menace of tens of millions of invading illegal aliens.'
They are placing a call on the internet seeking volunteers to descend upon Cochise County, Arizona from April 1-30, 2005.
According to their website Minutemen volunteers will be using legal means to 'surprise' immigrants on trails heading north and 'suggest' that people sit and wait for federal agents to come and pick them up. To the more general public they are claiming to be following a 'no contact' policy and are openly discouraging racists from attending. But as you can see from below The Minuteman Project is serving as a rallying point for the White Supremacists community.
Without a doubt there will be armed white supremacists in the middle of the desert stopping individuals who they despise. The activities of the current vigilantes and these new volunteers constitutes unlawful imprisonment, but unfortunately, the Cochise County Sheriff chooses to attend the meetings of these groups to pat them on the back and he has never arrested any private citizens for unlawfully detaining or abusing migrants despite a vast amount of evidence that these incidents have occurred.
(If you care to read more of their hysteria and fear mongering go here http://www.minutemanproject.com/AboutMMP.html)
The possibility of violence is highly likely (but not as likely if none of you choose to show up). You will be standing between armed individuals filled with hate and those they wish to place all of our society's ills upon. Additionally, legal observers are likely to find themselves in the middle of the desert with no government protection.
The purpose of legal observes is to deter abuses, document the actions of these individuals, and highlight the real tragedies that occur along the border. There is now a need to go beyond calling press conferences and issuing reports and begin directly intervening in the tragedy on the border. Perhaps someday we will live in a society where no human being will have to face death and hatred in pursuit of work that this country requires, but until that day comes the experiences of undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexican Border needs to be highlighted in order to demonstrate the fact that this is one of the grossest human rights violations in the history of the United States. Hundreds of people die annually in the desert and the American public chooses to turn a blind-eye.
As opposed to being outraged about the deaths, the general sentiment of the public is similar to that of the vigilantes. People's perceptions are rooted in fear and misunderstanding, it is this attitude that gives rise to the Minutemen. Not all are evil racists, but undoubtedly there will be some here in April. We must remember that these people are not the enemies, but victims. As such legal observers will of course be unarmed and adhere to non-violence even if attacked by one of the white supremacists.
The emphasis needs to be on the struggles of those who are crossing not on the hate groups who are patrolling.
I am not seeking to overwhelm the Minutemen with sheer numbers, but just looking for a few individuals who are willing to put themselves at risk to deter abuses and to highlight the real problems in our nation. It could turn out that the Minuteman Project will be shut down before April, or that none of their volunteers will show up, but we must also prepare for the worst.
If you are interested or want more details email me back and I'll give you a call. I'll be doing some traveling this last week in February and first week in March, but I should be able to get back to you within 3-4 days.
Here are some sample comments from White Power Websites regarding the Minuteman Project:
'Stopping that invader of our country will be the highlight of my white nationalist carreer. When my comrades and I are standing over an illegal we bagged and tagged in a citizens arrest I will finally see some sort of action that allthough miniscule has changed the course of our nation for the better, not some dumb flyer drop, or some secret meeting, but action. Not only will this program have a great morale effect but I can guarantee that if we are successful there will be a huge propaganda effect."
'I am a missionary for racism and I see fertile recruiting ground!"
'We can keep these muds from coming into our country. For every Mexican scum bag I bag and send packing, that is one less piece of **** to fight, for land, jobs, neighborhoods, and criminally. Plus I hate the way they hate me."
'When I assist in the arrest of one of these illegal invaders, everyone will know about it, hell I might get a good picture to post on the web site. These little triumphs are just going to fuel our motivation to do more to clean up our country."
Ray Ybarra American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona Ira Glasser Racial Justice Fellow P.O. Box 3740 Douglas, AZ 85608 (520) 364-1188