Grijalva: Have FBI probe alleged militia-racist link

Rep.-elect denounces patrols; they call his bigotry charges 'lies'

LUKE TURF Tucson Citizen Dec. 19, 2002

Vigilante group hurting towns' images, business, residents say

Congressman-elect Raúl Grijalva says his first official act will be to ask the FBI to investigate alleged links between civilian militias in southern Arizona and white supremacist groups.

"If you shine the light on the cockroaches, they don't like it," Grijalva said at a press conference yesterday hosted by Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, a group that advocates for illegal immigrants.

"The more we ignore it, the more it's going to fester," said Grijalva, who will be the first representative from the new Congressional District 7, which stretches from Tucson to Yuma.

Grijalva also said he wants a "declarative condemnation" of the militias by the U.S. Border Patrol.

Border Patrol spokesman Ryan Scudder said the militias have the same right to operate and to speak their mind as Derechos Humanos. However, Border Patrol doesn't issue opinions on specific groups.

Grijalva spoke out against the Sierra Vista-based American Border Patrol, Texas-based Ranch Rescue and the Civil Homeland Defense, organized by Tombstone newspaper publisher Chris Simcox.

Grijalva said he believes all three organizations are racist.

A report released yesterday by the Tucson-based Border Action Network alleges that groups such as the American Border Patrol are local fronts for neo-Nazi groups such as the St. Louis-based Council of Conservative Citizens.

The report says such groups provided funding to local vigilante groups but no specific amounts are given.

Glenn Spencer of the American Border Patrol said claims that his group is connected to racist organizations are "absolute lies."

Simcox challenged Grijalva to "prove it," and said the congressman-elect should instead investigate "why the borders are wide open."

Simcox said Grijalva is trying to deflect attention from the real issue, which is how illegal immigrants are sticking taxpayers with the bill for emergency health care and other social services.

Ranch Rescue spokesman Jack Foote couldn't be reached for comment.

Ranch Rescue has sent armed patrols onto private property in southern Arizona, and Simcox said his group plans to start patrolling private and public property along the border next month.

The American Border Patrol uses electronic equipment to monitor illegal immigrant traffic along the border. Isabel Garcia of Derechos Humanos said that group may be working with the U.S. Border Patrol because two former U.S. patrol agents now work for the American Border Patrol.

Scudder denied there was a link.

"We don't have anything to do with them," Scudder said. "They're retired agents. They have no access, they have no official connections with the U.S. Border Patrol."

Grijalva said his second priority in Washington will be asking for congressional hearings on border problems that would be held near the border.

Grijalva, a Democrat, toured southern Arizona's border with Mexico earlier this month with three other members of Arizona's congressional delegation: U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl and U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, all Republicans.

The group afterward agreed border issues must receive higher priority in Washington.

Grijalva said yesterday that a statement from President Bush denouncing the militias also would "do a great deal."