Tombstone militia will risk arrest - Isabel Garcia's cronies concerned
Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Tombstone militia will risk arrest
Group to patrol stations set up to aid entrants
By Ignacio Ibarra
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
The leader of Tombstone's fledgling citizens militia says the organization intends to conduct its operations on public lands, patrol routes leading to water stations and have volunteers apply for state-issued concealed weapons permits.
"We're stepping onto public lands, and I dare the government to come and arrest 50 people," said Chris Simcox, owner of the Tombstone Tumbleweed, a weekly newspaper, and organizer of a citizens militia he now calls the Civil Homeland Defense.
The goal of the organization is to deter terrorists, criminals, drug dealers and illegal entrants, he said.
Its initial strategy will be to conduct patrols in areas where humanitarian water stations and beacons have been established to aid illegal entrants. The group will be "humanely assisting those who are attracted to them by way of making sure they have water and blankets and any immediate medical attention they may need," he said.
They will then be placed under citizen's arrest and turned over to the Border Patrol.
"If all these other people are setting up ways to help illegal aliens, why can't we then patrol those same areas?" Simcox asked.
John Fife, a former leader of the Tucson-based Sanctuary Movement, rejected Simcox's attempt to cloak his organization with humanitarian cover and called on managers of public lands along the border to carefully review the group's proposed activities and determine if they are appropriate.
"In my judgment, vigilantes have no place on lands that belong to all the people. There's a huge difference between humanitarian life-saving efforts and vigilantes' running around with guns hunting human beings and putting all sorts of peoples' lives in danger . . . it is a dangerous and gross violation of human rights, " said Fife, a pastor at Southside Presbyterian Church and spokesman for Tucson-based Samaritan Patrol.
A spokesman for Derechos Humanos, a Tucson-based human rights group, agreed.
"When you organize a group of people to carry guns and patrol the border, it's a militia; it seems like they're trying to disguise that. We're talking about violating peoples' human rights, people taking the law into their own hands," said Jose Matus, executive director of Derechos Humanos.
The adjustment in strategy for Civil Homeland Defense was forced by the "tremendous pressure" from the media and government officials that caused property owners to back away from cooperating with his organization, Simcox said.
Despite the growing pressure, Simcox said he intends to "keep the flame burning on high" until the federal government puts troops on the border or the governor calls in the National Guard. So far, attempts to communicate with President Bush and Gov.-elect Janet Napolitano about his efforts have been ignored or rebuffed, Simcox acknowledged.
But he remains undeterred.
Until he hears from Bush or Napolitano, Simcox said, "We will continue to train American citizens, bring them into this group and then deploy them."
Napolitano has no intention of ordering the National Guard to the border, said Kris Mayes, a spokeswoman for the governor-elect, who added that she was unaware of any attempt by Simcox to reach Napolitano.
"She believes it is not the mission of the Guard, which is stretched enough with its current responsibilities, to patrol the border," Mayes said, "And as Gov.-elect Napolitano has said a number of times, there is just no room in Arizona for vigilantism."
On Saturday, the first 50 of more than 600 volunteers will be inducted and begin a course of training that includes qualification for a state-issued concealed weapons permit, Simcox said.
"We're going to use the government to screen our volunteers," he said. "Everyone who comes will have to get a concealed weapons permit and will have to go through that screening . . . a felony background check and an FBI check."
Civilian Homeland Defense members will wear no uniform and carry only defensive sidearms during operations, said Simcox, who now claims he and some members of his organization have been conducting patrol operations in Cochise County for nearly a year.
"We do not allow rifles, and no one is allowed to wear (camouflage)," he said. "We do not pretend to be Border Patrol or military in any way. We've always dressed as average citizens."