Reconquistas, open-border cheerleaders complain

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Investigate border incidents, U.S. urged


A group of human rights advocates called Monday for a federal investigation of several recent border incidents, including last week's double homicide near Red Rock and other events involving vigilante groups.

The rights groups, including the Coalición de Derechos Humanos, said the incidents are the result of misguided federal policies on immigration, which also need to be reviewed.

And they said they fear things will worsen before improving, as a "haven for racist vigilantes and their atmosphere of terror" is created here.

"The murder of two migrants is not an isolated incident," said the Rev. John Fife, pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church. "It is the culmination of a history of dehumanization and racism and militarism on this border that has gone on for a long time. Too long."

Two men were killed Wednesday when two suspected smugglers drove up and opened fire on a group of illegal border crossers near Red Rock, about 35 miles northwest of Tucson.

Investigators believe that the survivors - except one who escaped - were forced to get into the smugglers' vehicle and leave with them.

Also, on Tuesday and Wednesday, members of an armed citizens patrol called Ranch Rescue seized about 280 pounds of marijuana from smugglers crossing a private ranch.

The move marked an increase in Ranch Rescue activity, which until then had focused on helping ranchers fix fences and clean up trash.

A U.S. Border Patrol spokesman declined to comment, and calls to the Mexican Consulate and the Pinal County Sheriff's Department - which investigated the homicides - were not returned.

Isabel Garcia, co-chairwoman of Derechos Humanos, expressed doubt that the vigilante groups have jurisdiction to do what they're doing. She said law enforcement agencies are better suited to safeguard the public.

Former Pima County Supervisor Raul Grijalva, now running for Congress, also took part in the protest, asking federal authorities to investigate.

"This is very scary," said José R. Matus, director of Derechos Humanos, as he stood in front of El Tiradito, the historic Downtown shrine where Derechos Humanos has held weekly vigils for more than two years.

"We're very agitated and upset at what's going on now," he said. "We're fearful of people thinking they can pick up guns and shoot at anyone who looks Mexican."