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Are American Vigilantes Hunting Down and Murdering Immigrants as They Cross the Arizona Border?

"A lot of angry, militant white men on the border sitting like hunters," a former detective warns, as the number of unsolved murders piles up.

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Chris Simcox, who co-founded the Minuteman Project and went on to form the now-defunct Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, told the Report in an interview that he knew nothing of any specific murders, but recognized a reality that has long plagued the movement — that some do come to the border to hunt Latinos.

“You don’t know who you’re attracting [to the border],” said Simcox, who is now working as a private math tutor in Phoenix. “You got guys spinning off, and spinning off, all the time. That was the thing that concerned me the most.”

Still, the most intriguing cases may be those near Eloy.

Investigators have noted a number of marked similarities linking the 2007 cases and the murders last April. In each case, authorities believe there were four attackers who were described by at least some witnesses as white. In 2007, they wore similar “military style” clothing; in 2011, the attackers were described as wearing camouflage-style clothes. No spent shell casings were recovered in any of the attacks, suggesting that the killers used “brass-catchers” to avoid leaving evidence. In all three, the attackers wasted few shots and seemed to coordinate their work carefully, covering each other as if they had military training.

The DHS document analyzing the 2007 attacks contained another remarkable detail. After the Jan. 27 shooting, responding law enforcement officials heard vehicles a short distance from the shooting site, but out of sight. They found two men who claimed that they were watching the police response to the shooting — but were actually not in a position where they could see that response. “It is curious,” the document said, “that the subjects did not attempt to approach the scene as several other onlookers had, but they choose [sic] to remain concealed in the brush.”

The DHS’ conclusions were not definitive, but they were intriguing. “It appears that the same group of individuals is working in concert to intentionally kill [illegal aliens],” it said. Robbery or theft of drugs “did not appear to be the motive in either incident as the subjects were left unmolested after the shootings.”

Recently, the Arizona Daily Star reported an apparent resurgence in border activities by groups led by men like Jack Foote, a Texan who once headed a paramilitary anti-immigrant group called Ranch Rescue (and who reportedly recruited Tim Foley, the man who told officials in 2011 he had sniper experience). Foote’s Ranch Rescue disbanded following a 2003 lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of immigrants terrorized on a Texas ranch. But the Daily Star reported that Foote recently returned to the Arizona border with a new group, the Arizona State Defense Force Foundation. The group is recruiting “field researchers” with “prior Tactical Ground Operations training and experience” to scout the border for “evidence of the ongoing cross-border insurgency.”

Are some individuals or even groups in Arizona targeting immigrants for death? It remains impossible to say. But it’s hard not to think about the kind of anger that came from Jack Foote recently, after the state Legislature rejected the Arizona Special Missions Unit, a newly proposed state-sanctioned border militia.

“We have now washed our hands of our state’s Legislature,” Foote said in words that worried many. “Now we are going to do things our own way.”

And there is much to suggest that something else may be going on. For years, the area has been crisscrossed by “civilian border patrols” — the “Minutemen” groups that President George W. Bush characterized as “vigilantes” and that were enraged by what they saw as a purposeful invasion. A neo-Nazi leader who led fellow armed radicals to the border spoke of laying mines to prevent non-whites from entering — and later reportedly asked a witness to help him surveill homes where he hoped to murder Latinos. Law enforcement has found at least one pipe bomb planted on a smuggling trail, and last year a neo-Nazi was arrested with other bombs he was taking to the border. Still other neo-Nazis told the Intelligence Report several years earlier that they were scouting sniper positions at the border.

 
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