Bigotry: The Sport

Don Barnett of Arizona considers himself "a patriot" for spending his weekends patrolling his brother's ranch, assault rifle in hand, fighting what he calls the "slo-mo invasion of Mexicans" coming illegally over the border.

Yes, that's right, Mr. Barnett and his brother make a hobby out of running around with heavy weaponry and rounding up illegal immigrants at gunpoint, then handing them over to the Border Patrol.

And he's not alone: according to the mayor of the Arizona town where the Barnett boys live, "There are flyers circulating that advertise for tourists to do this for recreation. Bring your own RV and help out a rancher. They even list the essentials: infra-red binoculars, dogs, ammo, sun block."

Don's older brother Roger, commenting on the thrill of the hunt, said: "Humans. That's the greatest prey there is on earth."

My, what a fun sport, why didn't I think of that? Guess I don't spend enough time reading "Soldier of Fortune" magazine.

Of course, it was a U.K. paper which ran the story. The U.S. media doesn't seem to find it newsworthy, despite the fact that one of the immigrants was seriously wounded when a trigger-happy xenophobe "accidentally" shot him.

According to Cipriano Ramirez, the man wounded in the vigilante attack, the shooter has since apologized, saying he meant to shoot the dog which was walking a few feet away.

Gee, I guess that makes it all okay -- at least, no one is pressing any charges.

Apparently it's okay to shoot an illegal immigrant, as long as you promise you were only aiming for his pet.

And for our next trick: arbitrary detentions!

And what happens to people once they are turned over to the Border Patrol?

Why, they're detained, of course! Detained while they are waiting for a hearing -- even though they haven't even been accused of any crimes.

Some of them are illegal, and they'll be sent back home, but some of them are legal immigrants caught without their paperwork, and some of them are asylum-seekers. The asylum-seekers have it particularly rough: While they're trying to prove that they really truly do need asylum, which can take years, they're locked in jails.

According to Human Rights Watch, INS detention centers, already unpleasant places, are over-full. So where do the people go? To jail, of course, where they are often housed along with regular inmate populations. Even the children: Human Rights Watch reports that children were almost never informed of their right to an attorney, and often locked up with convicted juvenile offenders and forced to wear prison uniforms.

The INS refuses to let people go while its own ponderous bureaucratic wheels grind away, so it locks them up. And then it refuses to adequately monitor the conditions under which its detainees must live.

And if the Barnett brothers keep it up, they'll have no shortage of captives.

Dan Heath is a freelance writer.

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