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How the Brutal Murders of a Little Girl and Her Father Doomed the Xenophobic Minuteman Movement

The brutal killings of Junior and Brisenia Flores highlighted growing extremism on the fringes of the anti-immigrant movement.

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She told KOLD-TV in Tucson that it was just a tactical maneuver to avoid legal liability for any future Shawna Fordes: “The movement itself, the organization itself, is not going to go away, [it is] just the dissolving of the corporation.” She warned future would-be Minuteman offshoots: “It only takes one bad person to destroy everything we’ve built in the last eight years.”

Chris Simcox, who briefly flirted with a primary challenge to Sen. John McCain in 2010, has largely vanished from public view since April 2010, when his estranged wife, Alena, obtained a protection order against him. Simcox already has a number of domestic-violence incidents in his background; in this case Alena charged that he “brandished a gun and threatened to shoot her, their children and any police officers who tried to protect them.”

Local Minutemen organizations suspended operations in the wake of Forde’s arrest, and most of them have not returned since. Scott Anderson, leader of the MCDC’s Green Valley chapter — which had never had any connection to Forde — announced he was suspending its border-watch activities immediately after the arrests: “I figured something like this was going to happen,” he told a local reporter. “We’re all going to be painted with the same broad brush.” The group has never returned to action.

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A number of former Minuteman movement leaders are currently remaking themselves as Tea Party activists. Glenn Spencer — whose American Border Patrol organization has been designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center since the 1990s for its vicious anti-Latino rhetoric — this summer hosted Tea Party tours at his Arizona ranch, which you could sign up for through the Maricopa County Republicans Web site. Likewise, Simcox’s former right-hand man, Al Garza, who ran MCDC for several years, started up his own organization and called it the Patriots Coalition.

“Unfortunately, the public perception of the Minutemen has been tainted by our detractors and the media, which has successfully been enflamed by the internal and unnecessary strife,” wrote Garza in his announcement. “I do not see an end in sight for the problems plaguing what was once the greatest citizen movement in America.”

There are still some border-watch outfits trying to organize recruits, but none call themselves Minutemen anymore, and they operate on the fringes even more than MAD did. At least one of the new border-watch outfits, led by Arizona white supremacist J.T. Ready, openly courted the most radical segment of the American Right, including neo-Nazis from the National Socialist Movement and biker gangs. Ready named his organization the “Border Rangers” but his operation came to an abrupt halt on May 2, 2012, when he went on a shooting rampage against his girlfriend and her family in the home they shared, killing four people (including a 15-month-old toddler) before turning the gun on himself.

The Minuteman brand name, for the moment, is finished. “A lot of people felt, well, you’re a Minuteman, you’re a killer,” Al Garza told Gaiutra Bahadur of the  Nation, and then blamed not Shawna Forde or her enablers but the movement’s critics: “The name Minuteman has been tainted by organizations that didn’t want us at the border, that say we’re killers, that we’ve done harm.”

The claim that Forde wasn’t really a Minuteman, on the other hand, has enjoyed a long half-life. When Bill O’Reilly hosted a segment discussing the story on his Fox News show last February, both of the “legal analysts” featured in the segment, Kimberly Guilfoyle and Lis Wiehl, insisted that Forde was not really part of the movement. “She was not part of the Minutemen,” Wiehl told O’Reilly. (O’Reilly himself described the Flores home as “an illegal alien house,” even though both Junior Flores and Gina Gonzalez are third-generation American citizens.)

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