Reconquista Aztlan cheerleader upset by 'vigilantes'

Vigilantes, noncitizen law draw fire at rights event

Tucson Citizen
Dec. 14, 2002

Those at a celebration of International Human Rights Day last night said the past year has given them few reasons to rejoice.

About 75 people attended the event at St. John's Catholic Church, 602 W. Ajo Way. It was sponsored by the immigrant rights group Coalicion de Derechos Humanos.

Most said there was little to celebrate because vigilante groups are forming in southern Arizona, where thousands of illegal immigrants enter the United States each year to find work.

"I'm not sure we can really celebrate the advancement in the area of human rights," said University of Arizona law Professor and civil liberties advocate Andy Silverman. "It may be time to mourn the setbacks we have endured."

Silverman spoke out against the decision to place the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the new Department of Homeland Security.

"The worry here is, what is it saying about immigrants?" Silverman said. "I guess what it's saying is that they are serious security concerns. Some (illegal immigrants) may be, but the majority are not."

Silverman's concerns were shared by others, including Judy Flanagan, a Phoenix lawyer who specializes in immigration issues.

Flanagan condemned a law that makes it necessary for noncitizens to notify immigration officials of an address change within 10 days after they move.

She said the law has been on the books for 50 years and just came into use recently by officials who want to stem the flow of immigrants.

Noncitizens who don't follow the law may be deported, she said. "They could be placed in removal proceedings, and this law is increasingly used."

Isabel Garcia, a spokeswoman for Derechos Humanos and a Tucson immigration lawyer, blasted vigilante groups working near the border and laughed at their claims that terrorists might use the same routes as illegal border crossers to enter the United States.

"We've never had a terrorist struggling to get through the desert on the Tohono O'odham Nation," she said.