Blood on the Border

Southwest vigilantes hunt Mexican immigrants

Revolutionary Worker #1058, June 11, 2000

Racist vigilantes in southern Arizona and Texas have declared open season on immigrants.

On May 12, two Arizona ranchers on horseback, armed with high power hunting rifles, shot and critically wounded 20-year-old Miguel Angel Palofox, an undocumented Mexican worker who was trying to cross the border near Sasabe, Arizona. Four other men who were with Miguel remain missing and could be dead.

Miguel told the Sasabe, Sonora authorities that his group was suddenly ambushed by two vigilantes. Miguel was able to get a good look at the shooters before a high impact bullet tore through his neck and exited through his ear. He said he remembers seeing his companions fall after also being shot. But so far, no bodies have been recovered.

When Miguel regained consciousness, he was on the ground bleeding profusely. He was able to drag himself to the border crossing station at Sasabe where he was given medical attention and taken to a hospital at Caborca, Sonora. At this point, it is still unclear if the four men with Miguel survived the attack.

Deadly Agenda

On May 13, a group of Arizona vigilante ranchers were joined by white supremacist groups from California for a meeting at Sierra Vista, Arizona. The explicit purpose of the gathering was to discuss a plan of action to deal with what the ranchers call "a Mexican invasion" by undocumented workers.

White supremacist Glenn Spencer led a contingent of California anti-Mexican racists to the meeting. Spencer, who leads Voices of Citizens Together and a militia called American Patrol, has a long history of racist activity aimed at Mexican immigrants. Through the Internet, radio and other propaganda, Spencer warns against "Mexicans trying to takeover the United States." Vigilante rancher Roger Barnett also attended the meeting, joined by the Arizona 9th District of the Imperial Wizards of the Ku Klux Klan.

According to the Mexican newspaper La Reforma, a proposal surfaced at this meeting to place anti-personnel land mines at strategic places along the border in order to deter illegal immigration by Mexicans. The meeting was heavily policed by the Sierra Vista Police Department and by the Arizona Rangers.

Political and economic domination of Mexico by the U.S. has forced millions of poor people in Mexico to leave their families to search for jobs in the United States. And the U.S. has continually escalated its militarization of the border, hunting down and brutalizing immigrants.

Campaigns like "Operation Gatekeeper" in California and similar "border protection" programs in Texas have forced many immigrants to try and cross the border in Arizona. In response the U.S. Border Patrol has recently been authorized to bring an additional 180 officers to Arizona. And now these official government attacks against immigrants on the border are being aided by the mobilization of racist vigilantes.

Hunting Humans

In 1984 James Huberty targeted Mexicans and massacred 22 people at a McDonald's restaurant at the border in San Ysidro, California. Huberty was an unemployed security guard who blamed Mexicans for his inability to get a job. On the day of the massacre, Huberty's wife said he put on military-style camouflage clothes, picked up his assault weapon, and said "Society's had their chance. I'm going hunting. Hunting humans."

In this same racist, vigilante spirit, ranchers in Arizona recently sent out an invitation to white supremacist groups around the country to come on down to the border to "hunt" for undocumented Mexican workers.

Ranchers in this area are facing a long and devastating drought and many are being whipped up around the lie that Mexican immigrants are to blame for their economic problems.

Now many U.S. citizens of Mexican descent living in Douglas, Arizona are afraid to come out of their homes in fear that they will be mistaken for undocumented Mexican immigrants and attacked by racist vigilantes.

Roger Barnett has been a major figure in the anti-immigrant movement. In June of 1999 Barnett appeared before a congressional subcommittee on immigration to call for a National Guard presence along the border. More recently, he stated in an interview that he was ready to "kill Mexicans" if it became necessary.

Barnett, who is a former deputy sheriff turned cattleman, has a 22,000 acre ranch at Sierra Vista, Arizona--next to the Mexican border. For Barnett and dozens of other ranchers, the Sunday sport of choice has been to stalk undocumented immigrants, round them up with trained dogs, then--at gunpoint-- hand them over to the U.S. Border Patrol.

"Humans. That's the greatest prey there is on earth," said Roger Barnett. He recently posed for a network news team that filmed him and his brothers capturing nine undocumented immigrants out beyond their barbed wire fence. Barnett boasts that his record "haul" is 86 in one morning. And he claims that he and his group arrested over 174 Mexicans in just one weekend and thousands over a two-year period.

Out of 25 recent attacks on immigrants, Roger Barnett and his brother Don have been involved in at least 14. Like Roger, Don Barnett lets his cold, racist heart speak freely. He told one reporter, "The bottom line is if some Mexican is squatting behind a bush on private property, he gets what's coming to him."

These vigilante ranchers recently sent out a flyer inviting militia types and other racists from throughout the U.S. to come down to Cochise County to "hunt" for Mexican immigrants on their ranches. They offered free board on their land to any "tourist" wanting to have "some fun in the sun."

The flyer proclaims: "This vacation is for the winter visitor that wants to help an American Rancher keep his land protected while enjoying the great southwestern desert at the same time. Just the great outdoors and good `ole western individualism spirit of private property." The flier goes on to suggest the proper equipment for the trip: RVs, infra-red scopes and trip-wire flare launchers to "locate and expose the invaders."

Blood on the Border

The Mexican government recently filed an emergency "complaint" with the U.S. Department of Justice through its embassy in Washington D.C., and the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Rosario Green, has announced that the government of Mexico will file suit in U.S. Federal Court against the Arizona vigilantes who shot Miguel Angel Palofox Aguerrin.

In a press conference held in Mexico City, Secretary Green stated that since January 24, 1999 through May 15, 2000 there have been 32 incidents of violence against Mexican undocumented immigrants by U.S. citizens. Twenty-seven of the incidents occurred in Arizona. Ten happened in 1999--and the rest have occurred this year. Of the 27 cases in Arizona the vigilante ranchers Roger Barnett and his brother Don Barnett were involved in 15. Another rancher by the name of Andreas Muller was involved in 3 cases.

The 32 cases involved a total of 451 immigrants. Seven of these immigrants have been physically injured and two have been murdered.

In the past five years, nearly 500 Mexican immigrants, unprepared for the stark conditions of the desert, have died from exposure trying to cross the border. And for those immigrants who manage to survive the dangerous desert conditions--they must face the threat of armed vigilantes.

A report on KOLD TV station in Tucson, Arizona, showed a ranch hand detaining five men, apparently undocumented immigrants. The ranch worker was shown pushing one of the men from a seated position onto his stomach and the men were held at gunpoint until the U.S. Border Patrol arrived.

In the area around Brackettville, in Texas, at least five immigrants have been shot--two killed--in a little over a year in the borderlands around Del Rio and Eagle Pass.

As ranching has become less profitable in this area, many old-time ranchers have started dividing up their land into small parcels and selling it to hunters and retirees. Many of these new land owners have been involved in attacks on immigrants.

According to a District Attorney near Del Rio, virtually all of the shootings in the area have occurred when the person was some distance away and walking in the opposite direction. In other words, the victims have been shot, cold-blooded, in the back.

The most recent incidents happened within a month of each other. On May 13, 23-year-old Eusebio de Haro Espinosa, from the central state of Guanajuato made the fatal mistake of stopping near Rancho Leona, in Texas, to ask for water and food at the end of a 20-mile hike along the border near Piedras Niegras in Mexico. The temperature on May 14 was over 100 degrees. By 4 p.m., Eusebio and his companion, 25-year-old Javier Sanchez, were sweltering and between them had nothing left to drink. They stopped at the home of 74-year-old Sam Blackwood to ask for water. Blackwood told the two immigrants to get off his land and called the Border Patrol.

Javier Sanchez said the old rancher started pursuing them and firing his gun. Eusebio was hit in the groin. Instead of immediately phoning for medical assistance, the rancher called the police and, when a patrol car from the county prison arrived 40 minutes later, Eusebio had already bled to death. Blackwood was charged with murder, arraigned and released after posting $10,000 bail.

Eusebio's father, Paisano de Haro Bueno, makes fireworks in the village of San Felipe, Guanajuato and has 13 other children. When he got the news about the murder of his son, he said, "They killed my son like a dog. He was determined to find work so he could bring money back home."

The murder of Eusebio de Haro came less than a month after an incident just to the north in neighboring Edwards County, where 56-year-old Coy Brown shot a Mexican immigrant, Mauricio Gonzalez.

According to the District Attorney, Gonzalez was with two other men when they encountered Mr. Brown. Brown held the men at gunpoint, marched them off his property, and then shot Gonzalez in the back. He then walked the men, including the wounded Gonzalez, at gunpoint for two miles to a neighboring rancher's house.

Gonzalez was hit in the buttocks and might have been injured much more seriously if the bullet had not hit a can of beans that was in his backpack.

These are only the most recent incidents in the area where immigrants have been shot at by ranchers. Patrick Glenn Bordelon has been charged in two separate shootings of Mexican immigrants near a riverside community just north of Del Rio called Vega Verde. And in January of 1999, Wilbur Honeycutt, a local cop participating in a federal Drug Enforcement Administration program, shot a Mexican teenager in the back along the Rio Grande.

Cipriano Ramirez saved up his money for years in Temoac village in central Mexico, earning $4 a day mostly selling sweets. Finally he got together $1,600 needed to pay a professional smuggler (a "coyote") to take him over the U.S. border.

Along with a dozen other migrants, Cipriano repeatedly tried to cross the Arizona border. On his third try, on March 23, he was shot and ended up in a hospital in Hermosillo, Mexico. The bullet entered his right buttock, nicked his tailbone, and perforated his large intestine. The doctors told him it would take six months to heal. And now Mr. Ramirez, who is only 32, worries that he may never walk or work again.

"There were 12 of us and we walked all night long," said Mr Ramirez. "But we did not know there were ranchers hunting illegals. Some time after daybreak, I felt a sudden pain in my belly and began to writhe on the ground. The rancher, Mr. Major, said it was all a mistake. He was firing his gun at a dog walking three feet away from me."


Some politicians are now trying to use these vigilante incidents to bolster their arguments for further militarization of the border. U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, an El Paso Democrat and former Border Patrol chief, argues that the recent shootings by vigilantes in Texas and Arizona are caused by the "frustrations of local residents in areas that are underserved by the Border Patrol." And he goes on to complain that the Immigration and Naturalization Service has not been able to comply with a directive by Congress to hire 1,000 new agents each year.

La Resistencia points out:

"The actions of the vigilantes are right in line with the U.S. government murderous policy of border militarization. Operation Gatekeeper in California alone has claimed over 500 immigrant lives since October, 1994. The U.S./Mexican border has been turned into a war zone where the Border Patrol hunts down unarmed immigrants. Recent anti-immigrant laws as well as politicians' calls for protecting America's `endangered borders' have emboldened these vigilantes.

"Now these racist Rambo types are adding their deadly force to the combined resources of the Border Patrol, U.S. military, and various other police agencies which are carrying out the official U.S. government policy of `deterrence.' They are following the lead of the U.S. Border Patrol which has itself shown by a rash of recent shootings in the San Diego/Tijuana area that immigrants crossing the border can be shot at and murdered as part of discouraging unauthorized border crossing."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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