Isabel Garcia, co-chair of the Coalicion of Derechos Humanos, and Jose Matus, of Alianza Indegena Sin Fronteras, discuss the problems of armed civilians patrolling the border FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson Citizen
Reconquistas calls for an end to armed citizen patrols along border
Group calls for an end to armed citizen patrols along border
Oct. 21, 2002
LARRY COPENHAVER Tucson Citizen Oct. 21, 2002
Members of a human rights groups are demanding that law enforcement officials to take action against vigilantes they say are terrorizing border crossers who enter the United State illegally.
Several bands of U.S. citizens have been reportedly patrolling roads and ranch areas along Arizona's border with Mexico, with the intent of discouraging border crossings with a show of force or notifying the Border Patrol of illegal border crossing.
But the bands are more than citizens doing their duty: They intimidate border crossers with their weapons and threats, the human rights group says.
They also create an environment when violence, even murder, occurs.
"We call for immediate dismantling of those terrorists organizations," said Isabel Garcia, co-chair of the Coalicion of Derechos Humanos, at a noon news conference yesterday.
Conditions created but such groups are responsible for violent deaths of immigrants, she said, such as the two murders that happened last week near the rural community of Red Rock, 32 miles northwest of Tucson.
The deaths came when shots were fired into a group of about a dozen border crossers while were resting in the shade near a stock pond. Law enforcement officials say they suspect competing smugglers fired the shots.
"To allow such operations to go on will only serve as a green light to racists and vigilante types who mistakenly blame poor immigrants for the havoc that failed border policies have created," she said, reading from a prepared statement issued by Derechos Humanos and the Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras, another group that co-sponsored the news conference.
She said the hate spread by such vigilante groups often spreads and causes others to take up arms against border crossers.
Raul Grijalva, the democratic candidate for Congressional District 7, speaking at the event, said that the federal government should investigate the murders near Red Rock and determine if the victims' civil righter were violated.
And Grijalva called for hearing between U.S. and Mexican officials on border violence.