Border Vigilantes: Praised by the Terminator

by Luciente Zamora

Revolution #3, May 22, 2005, posted at

Throughout the entire month of April, several hundred retired border patrol agents, ex-Marines, former corrections officers, neo-Nazis, white separatists, and others answered a call from the "Minuteman Project" to protect the "homeland" from "the invasion of illegal aliens." The Minutemen vigilantes patrolled a 23-mile stretch of the Arizona/Mexico border.

In the week after the month-long Minuteman Project ended, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commended these vigilantes on a right-wing radio station, KFI AM. He said, "I think they've done a terrific job... They've cut down the crossing of illegal immigrants a huge percentage. So it just shows that it works when you go and make an effort and when you work hard. It's a doable thing."

What does it say about the times we are living in when the governor of the largest state in the U.S. (and a state with a huge immigrant population) openly praises vigilantes who hunt down immigrants and says that these Minutemen—many of whom are neo-Nazis and white separatists—are "exemplary citizens"? Isn't it similar to how Hitler praised his stormtroopers for beating and murdering Jewish people?

Schwarzenegger also condemned human rights groups who set up water stations in the desert to help immigrants crossing the dangerous terrain. He said, "What we're doing basically is, by not really securing the borders, we're saying: `Look, here are the various water stations. Here are the places where you can cross the borders. Here is where we're going to help you.' The whole system is set up to really invite people to come in here illegally, and that has to stop."

Again, this is reminiscent of Nazi Germany, when Hitler persecuted those who helped the Jews. Schwarzenegger not only reveals his cruel inhumanity—he is also setting these people up as targets for legal action as well as targets of the vigilantes.

What kind of a depraved monster would say such things about immigrants who are desperately trying to cross the border in search of means of livelihood, and people who are trying to do what they can to help prevent poor people from losing their lives? Schwarzenegger's cold-blooded words stem from the outlook of the class he represents. To him and those who rule this society, undocumented immigrants and people who try to help them are "criminals"—while vigilantes and Migra agents who hunt down the immigrants are "heroes."

Schwarzenegger's support of the Minutemen is another indication that these human hunters are getting backing from powerful sections of the ruling class. Colorado Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo recently invited Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox—founders of the Minuteman Project—to Washington, DC, to attend a Congressional "Immigration Reform Caucus," which hailed the Project as a success.

Simcox and Gilchrist have said that the response to the Minuteman Project has been so great that they are planning to embark upon a national fundraising campaign to spread Minuteman chapters across the country—especially border states like Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California—to patrol the border and to protest businesses that hire undocumented workers.

Immigrants have been under attack and even killed at the hands of vigilantes and ranchers along the border for years. But there is a new momentum to what Simcox described as "a civil defense type movement in the absence of a government which can meet the basic needs of citizens"—in other words, a fascist "grassroots" movement.

In California, the Border Watch—a project launched by a group calling itself the Friends of the Border Patrol—is organizing on a "grassroots" level to patrol the San Diego/Mexico border this summer. Border Watch is signing up police officers, ex-military personnel, Minutemen, and other vigilante forces. They are also trying to enlist volunteer pilots to patrol from the air. They are set to begin training sessions this June and plan to dispatch patrols in August to the mountainous and beach regions in San Diego.

The group is headed by Andy Ramirez, the former executive director of the Save Our State initiative (S.O.S.). In 1994 S.O.S. put Proposition 187—a measure making it illegal to provide undocumented immigrants education, health services, and other social services—on the California ballot. There was massive opposition to the proposition, which passed but was later overturned in the courts. However, the reactionary movement behind Prop 187 did not go away—in fact, it has gained even more force.

Ramirez, whose grandfather was a Mexican immigrant, says the government is not doing enough to "protect the homeland." He wants the Border Patrol and the U.S. military to basically seal the border—and in the meantime, he says the mission of Friends of the Border Patrol is to get "ordinary citizens" to do the job the government isn't doing.

Ramirez also calls for intensified repression against immigrants beyond the border area: "Let the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. military patrol our borders, and resume sweeps for those who have illegally entered the U.S."

Travis Morales of the Revolutionary Communist Party, San Francisco Bay Area, points out, "People need to stare at this straight in the face. In Arizona, for several years, the Border Patrol has been cooperating with vigilantes who hunt down immigrants crossing the border to survive. Now this has gone much further with the deployment of the armed Minutemen. The governor of the largest state gives his approval and invites them to patrol the border while Congresspeople promote them as a success.

"While Bush and company are pushing to institute a right-wing Christian fundamentalist theocracy, armed fascists are being unleashed at the border with high-level backing and support as part of the overall fascist program. Sections of the ruling class are politically and organizationally mobilizing armed fascist stormtroopers and training them to go after immigrants and others seen as threats to `national security.'

"These latest moves remind me of what Chairman Avakian discusses in the article `The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era.' In it he refers to Newt Gingrich talking about how never has the country been so divided as it is now since the 1840s and 1850s in the period before the Civil War. In other places Avakian also discusses Pat Buchanan's worry, coming from a reactionary point of view, that deep cultural and social divisions are tearing the U.S. apart. The Minutemen and other fascist thugs are one part of the solution to this dilemma- -outright brutal suppression of opponents and those seen as problems for the ruling class.

"If the legitimacy of armed fascist thugs is established and they are allowed to hunt and attack immigrant without intense and determined opposition that knocks them back on their heels, this will be further horror heaped upon the millions of immigrants driven from their home countries by U.S. domination. And does anyone think this will stop here? Given the moves toward Christian fascist theocracy, this will be just the beginning. This is not the future. This is now."

These fascist groups need to be hit hard politically. They cannot be allowed to gain the upper hand and establish themselves as the "new normalcy." People need to figure out the ways to take on these American-style stormtroopers.

Think about what happened when Hitler and the Nazis were not stopped. Think about what will happen if the fascist tide we're confronted with today is not stopped.