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ADL Says Armed Anti-Immigration Groups in Arizona Share Ties to White Supremacists

Update (April 2005): Extremist groups along the Arizona-Mexico border continue to use radical tactics, including armed vigilante action, to promote an extreme anti-immigrant agenda.  In addition to openly inviting people to "patrol" the borders using weapons and surveillance technology, new groups have formed and activity has expanded.  Several members belonging to vigilante groups have been arrested on weapons charges and white supremacist and anti-governments groups continue to express interestMore>>


Phoenix, AZ, May 6, 2003 .... Rising tides of armed vigilantism and anti-immigrant intimidation along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona are creating an atmosphere of fear and lawlessness, according to a new report issued by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Border Disputes: Armed Vigilantes in Arizona traces the roots and present-day activities of extreme right-wing anti-immigrant groups active in Arizona and documents their associations with white supremacists and anti-Semites.

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Border Disputes: Armed Vigilantes in Arizona
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"The Arizona border has become the flashpoint for America's far-right anti-immigration movement," said Bill Straus, ADL Arizona Regional Director. "Anti-immigration groups are engaged in a campaign of vigilantism and intimidation, and their ideology has all the hallmarks of the hateful rhetoric promoted by anti-Semites and racists. We are greatly concerned that the collusion of anti-immigration groups and their extremist sympathizers is contributing to the growing climate of intolerance, lawlessness and violence along the Arizona-Mexico border."

Armed Vigilantes

Immigration control issues are often the subject of hot dispute in border communities, but in recent months an increasing number of extremist groups have been using radical tactics in Arizona - including armed vigilante action - to promote an extreme anti-immigrant agenda. Such groups are spearheading an effort to mobilize armed vigilantes to "patrol" the Arizona border to stop what they view as a Mexican "invasion." The most organized of these groups openly invite people to "patrol" the borders using technology and weapons. ADL has identified several groups who are promoting armed vigilantism while increasingly working in concert with other radicals to promote an extreme worldview - not of immigration control or reform, but one of hate and intolerance.

  • American Border Patrol

    This virulently anti-Hispanic group, headed by Glenn Spencer, a retired businessman, is based in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Founded in California in 1992 as "Voices of Citizens Together," Spencer's group has warned for more than a decade of a plan by Mexicans to "invade" and "conquer" the Southwestern U.S. Spencer claims to have proven his conspiracy theory that the Mexican government is "sponsoring the invasion of the United States with hostile intent." Sales of Spencer's documentary and video series, "Bonds of our Union," along with appeals to a mailing list of 26,000 people, help cover organizational costs. He also operates a Web site and hosts a weekly radio show. While Spencer claims that his group has never mounted border patrols, he admits that his group has "accompanied others" on patrol. Spencer is a friend and ally of Roger Barnett, a rancher from Cochise County, Arizona who has received considerable publicity for his armed confrontations with Mexican immigrants. Barnett maintains that he and his brother have caught more than 2,000 illegal immigrants on their 22,000-acre ranch in Douglas, Arizona.

    While Spencer tries to downplay his extremist message by claiming that he is not a racist, racist and anti-government extremist groups across the country have embraced his rhetoric; indeed, Spencer has personally appeared at events sponsored by white supremacists and racists.

  • Ranch Rescue

    Based in Arlington, Texas, Ranch Rescue was formed in June 2000 by Jack Foote and a small group of people inspired by news reports about Roger Barnett's activities. The group organizes armed "patrols" of the border on private property, over which they claim the government has no jurisdiction. Foote repeatedly has expressed the view that illegal immigration is not a social problem, but rather a phenomenon deliberately encouraged by the Mexican government to undermine the U.S. Ranch Rescue claims to have chapters in six states, including California, Illinois, New Mexico, Texas and Washington.

    In October 2002, Ranch Rescue organized "Operation Hawk," a "field mission" of armed volunteers to "patrol" the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. The group has said as many as 100 members could participate in future missions. "We are coming to the border, and we are coming in increasing numbers," Foote has stated. More recently, on March 20, 2003, two Ranch Rescue volunteers were arrested for detaining a pair of Salvadorans, allegedly beating one with a pistol. The incident occurred during a patrol dubbed "Operation Falcon" on a ranch near Hebbronville, Texas. Two volunteers were charged with aggravated assault and unlawful restraint.

    Although Ranch Rescue describes itself as a "volunteer network" dedicated to "defending private property rights for all Americans, regardless of race, color, creed or religion," its activities enjoy wide support among extremist groups across the country. Foote has reached out to a variety of white supremacists, and his interview with the neo-Nazi National Alliance was recently posted on the Web site of Resistance Records, a hate-music distributorship run by the NA. Foote has promoted his organization on the shortwave radio program of Clay Douglas, the editor of the Free American, a New Mexico-based anti-government and anti-Semitic publication.

  • Civil Homeland Defense

    A newly formed militia group, Civil Homeland Defense supports armed "patrols" of the border. Headed by Chris Simcox, a former elementary school teacher, the organization is made up of local ranchers from Cochise County, who are encouraged to arm themselves for "patrol" operations. On January 5, 2003, about 10 volunteers joined Simcox along the Mexican border in one of its first "patrols." Another six people were on hand as observers. Some of those observers claimed to be members of American Border Patrol and Ranch Rescue. Simcox has blamed the federal government and U.S. Border Patrol for failing to "stop the flood of immigrants funneling through Cochise County," and has engaged in bizarre conspiracy theories, including the notion that the Mexican Army is using "Chinese troops" and weaponry.

    In mid-March 2003, Simcox led 34 volunteers with flashlight and night-vision devices to patrol Cochise County's border with Mexico, concluding, in Simcox's words, "its most productive - yet most terrifying - weekend to date." He claimed to have seized 43 illegal immigrants and turned them over to the Border Patrol and to have frightened off another 80. Since the beginning of the war with Iraq, Simcox claims his group has conducted daily patrols, seizing more than 200 migrants. Simcox is the publisher of a local newspaper, the Tombstone Tumbleweed, which often assumes a militant tone.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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2003 Anti-Defamation League