December 9, 2002
Arizona militia set to patrol border for illegal aliens
By Jerry Seper THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A former kindergarten teacher who has organized a 600-strong militia in Arizona will station 50 armed militia members on public land this weekend to "protect their country" against an invasion of illegal aliens, warning federal authorities - including President Bush - not to interfere.
"I dare the president of the United States to arrest Americans who are protecting their own country," said Chris Simcox, the teacher-turned-newspaper owner who has formed the Tombstone, Ariz., Militia. "We will no longer tolerate the ineptness of the government in dealing with these criminals and drug dealers.
"It is a monumental disgrace that our government is letting the American people down, turning us into the expendable casualties of the war on terrorism," he said.
Mr. Simcox, owner of the Tombstone Tumbleweed, said the armed militia members would patrol public land to detain illegal aliens every weekend until Mr. Bush puts U.S. troops on the border to stop the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants coming into the state each year and the resulting vandalism of public and private land.
Federal and state lawmakers have targeted Mr. Simcox for hearings to determine if he has violated any laws in forming the armed militia organization and posting its members on private land to stop illegal aliens, smugglers and drug dealers.
The hearings are being sought by Rep.-elect Raul Grijalva, Arizona Democrat; Gov.-elect Janet Napolitano; current Arizona Gov. Jane Hull; and state Rep. Robert Cannell, Yuma Democrat, and are expected to focus on the Tombstone Militia and other civilian militia groups and citizen patrols that have sprung up along Arizona's border with Mexico.
Many of the militia and patrol members have expressed anger and frustration over the government's inability to stop the hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens coming into Arizona each year from Mexico.
Mr. Grijalva, who takes office in January, said he also intends to ask Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate the Arizona militias and patrols, saying he feared the "potential for violence" along the border involving the civilian organizations.
"Armed civilian groups on the border contribute to an already fragile situation, and their rhetoric is very dangerous to the overall security of the region," Mr. Grijalva said. "We have a failed border policy, but the intrusion of armed militias certainly adds to the potential for violence.
"It's time Congress became involved and conduct hearings on a full range of critical border issues, including the militias, immigration reform and overall border policy," he said. "With the issue of vigilantism, the potential for that becoming something very ugly certainly exists."
The Arizona Legislature is expected to take up the matter when it returns for business in January, and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights also has asked the Justice Department to investigate suspected "vigilante" activities in Arizona.
Arizona is home to more than a dozen known militia organizations. About a third of the more than 1 million illegal aliens expected to be arrested this year by U.S. Border Patrol agents will be apprehended in southern Arizona, where they have migrated because of increased border enforcement in California and Texas.
The influx of illegal aliens has resulted not only in a glut of vandalism in Arizona, but to a rise in crime along the state's border with Mexico, authorities said.
Mr. Simcox challenged federal and state officials to "uphold the oath of office they took to protect America" from foreign enemies. He also said militia members who take part in the weekend patrol will not wear uniforms or camouflage, but will be armed with handguns - no rifles - to protect themselves.
"I've been out on the border for 10 months, and I can tell you that we have to be armed," he said, noting that citizen militias are necessary and legal.
"I am not afraid to carry this on to state lands that belong to every citizen. It's our land," he said. "I'm not afraid to step on that land and do the same thing, and I challenge my government to come and arrest me. We are not crazies, we're concerned citizens we are responsible people."
The first group of 50 was inducted and began a course of training on Saturday, which included a qualification that each seek and be issued a state concealed-weapons permit. Mr. Simcox told Tucson reporters last week the requirement would allow the militia to use the government to screen its volunteers, who would have to pass a felony background investigation and an FBI check.