Immigrant Rights News - Monday, June 15, 2009
Home invasion suspects tied to border group
Two of three people arrested in a southern Arizona home invasion that left a little girl and her father dead had connections to a Washington state anti-illegal immigration group that conducts border watch activities in Arizona.
Jason Eugene Bush, 34, Shawna Forde, 41, and Albert Robert Gaxiola, 42, have been charged with two counts each of first-degree murder and other charges, said Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of
The trio are alleged to have dressed as law enforcement officers and forced their way into a home about 10 miles north of the Mexican border in rural Arivaca on May 30, wounding a woman and fatally shooting her husband and their 9-year-old daughter.
Their motive was financial, Dupnik said.
"The husband who was murdered has a history of being involved in narcotics and there was an anticipation that there would be a considerable amount of cash at this location as well as the possibility of drugs," Dupnik said.
Forde is the leader of Minutemen American Defense, a small border watch group, and Bush goes by the nickname "Gunny" and is its operations director, according to the group's Web site.
She is from
A statement attributed to officers of Forde's group and posted on its Web site on Saturday extended condolences to the victims' families and said the group doesn't condone such acts and will cooperate with law enforcement.
"This is not what Minutemen do," said member Chuck Stonex, who responded to an e-mail from The Associated Press sent through the Web site. "Minutemen observe, document and report. This is nothing more than a cold-hearted criminal act, and that is all we want to say."
The assailants planned to leave no one alive, Dupnik said at a press conference in
"This was a planned home invasion where the plan was to kill all the people inside this trailer so there would be no witnesses," Dupnik said. "To just kill a 9-year-old girl because she might be a potential witness to me is just one of the most despicable acts that I have heard of."
Dupnik said Forde continued working through Friday to raise a large amount of money to make her anti-illegal immigrant operation more sophisticated.
Forde denied involvement as she was led from sheriff's headquarters.
"No, I did not do it," she said. "I had nothing to do with it."
Gaxiola also denied involvement; Bush was arrested at a Kingman, Ariz., hospital where he was being treated for a leg wound he allegedly received when the woman who survived the attack managed to get a gun and fire back.
Killed were 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her 29-year-old father, Raul Junior Flores. The name of the wounded woman who survived the attack hasn't been released.
Forde is well known in the anti-illegal immigration community, said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino.
"She's someone who even within the anti-immigration movement has been labeled as unstable," Levin said. "She was basically forced out of another anti-immigrant group, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, and then founded her own organization."
"I know she's always had sort of a checkered past but I take people for what I see and not what I hear," the 57-year-old said.
She recruited him to start a new chapter in
Stonex said he didn't know how to recruit for a chapter and never did.
He said Forde called him on the day of the attack while he was visiting
Stonex said it appeared Bush had a relatively minor gunshot wound, which he treated.
He said Forde and Bush told him Bush been wounded by a smuggler who shot at him while the group were patrolling the desert.
Stonex said he didn't suspect that might not be the case until was contacted by a deputy on Saturday about their alleged involvement in the crime.
By Kristi Heim
Shawna Forde was known for her outspoken opposition to illegal immigration and even claimed last year that she was being targeted by Mexican drug cartels.
But her behavior proved too much even for the
Forde, who grew up in
Forde, 41, then created the anti-illegal immigration group and focused its attention on the Mexican border with
According to police, Forde and two associates planned and carried out an invasion robbery May 30 in the border town of
The man's wife survived the 1 a.m. attack but was wounded in an ensuing gunfight, police said.
Forde, along with Jason Eugene Bush, 34, also of Washington state, and Albert Robert Gaxiola, 42, was arrested and charged late last week with first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and aggravated assault.
After her arrest, Forde told reporters, "I did not do it."
The Pima County Sheriff's Department said the trio planned to steal money and drugs from the victims and kill any witnesses. Forde was seeking a large sum of money to fuel her operation, the sheriff's office said.
"Shawna was actually the ringleader," said Pima County Sheriff's spokeswoman Dawn Barkman.
While Forde and Gaxiola were present, Bush did the shooting, Barkman said. Bush was injured when
Based on her group's Web site, Forde had been busy organizing the Minutemen American Defense. "I would like to let everyone know that we are in full operation."
One of the group's stated missions was to gather video footage of drug smuggling and human trafficking by drug cartels. "We will expose and report what we know and find, we will recruit the serious and train the revolutionist, time for words have passed the time for bravery and conviction are now," Forde stated on the Web site.
Forde had been a member of the larger Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), which has chapters around the country. But members of that group said they had distanced themselves from her.
Joseph Ray, director of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps for
Since then Ray said his group has had no connection with Forde or her Minutemen American Defense.
"MCDC extends our heartfelt sympathy to the
Chuck Stonex, of
Stonex said Forde told him Bush had been shot by a smuggler while on border patrol in the desert.
In an e-mail to The Seattle Times, Stonex said the double homicide "is NOT a Minuteman issue, nor an issue of illegal immigration or drug smuggling.
"This is nothing more than a cold blooded criminal act that was carried out by some one who had ties to a group who was known for taking a stand against the constant flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into the
Forde has had a troubled life, according to those who know her. Late last year Forde reported a series of attacks against her and her ex-husband. She claimed her husband had been shot Dec. 22 at his
Forde's mother, who lives in
In August, Forde visited a Minuteman camp in Campo,
When Forde arrived at Campo, "she had a Minuteman Civil Defense Corps badge so she presumably had been vetted by the group. Minuteman Civil Defense Corps charges a fee and does a background check," Craig stated.
Forde went with a member of the group to
Forde told Craig she did most of her border watching in
"We did not hear from her directly again," Craig stated. "It takes someone truly monstrous to harm a child."
Kristi Heim: 206-464-2718 or firstname.lastname@example.org
by Rockero Saturday, Jun. 13, 2009 at 10:57 PM
On the evening of Thursday, June 11, four cars containing two officers each cars from the Pomona Police Department entered the Woodland Mobile Home Park, a 33-space residential park at
They ran the license plates of all the cars parked within the complex, ticketing one non-operational vehicle owned by a deaf resident. They took photos of alleged code violations and ordered residents to clean up their yards. One resident was ordered to remove a refrigerator from the side of his home.
Residents were warned, "If you don't clean up and comply, we have probable cause to call immigration." This admonition sent waves of panic through the park. "Immigration is a big word," said the park manager, "and should not be abused."
The residents, with the aid of the property manager, decided to express their discontent with the police department and demand answers from their supposed protectors. The following day, Friday the 12th, they organized a march from the park to the police department to ask some questions.
"We have recently formed a neighborhood watch in our community, and we want to work with you to keep crime out," explained the manager, speaking to Lieutenant Joanne M. Guzek on behalf of the residents. "We understand if you need to come in to arrest someone, but we also think we have a right to know, what brought you in yesterday?"
Lt. Guzek explained that complaints of loud music prompted the raid. The manager was taken aback. She explained the policy. "Whenever I hear loud music, I go and give the residents a verbal warning. If it keeps up, I'm the one who calls the police." She did not hear any loud music or place a call to the police department on Thursday.
The manager explained that there have been issues with code compliance at the park in the past, but that after meetings with a state agency (the park, she claims, sits on an unincorporated area adjacent to the city of Pomona) in which recommendations were made and subsequently implemented, as well as an outreach visit from the Human Society to bring the pets into compliance, the police did not have any reason to come in threatening residents with deportation.
The marchers returned to the mobile home park and began a barbecue. At about six-thirty, several cars of plainclothes officers, the
Tenants panicked and fled when police agents detonated explosive devices--"sound bombs" that did not damage any property but did psychologically terrorize their targets. The manager reported losing count after the fifth explosion. Officers targeted four units, removing the inhabitants and laying them on the floor. Some of those detained were children, and officers had their tasers drawn. Eventually, the children were released, but three men were arrested, including a man who was not a resident of the park, but was simply there to make some repairs to one of the units.
The park's manager expressed particular concern about this man. "He was arrested but I know he is innocent. Last year there was a stabbing here, and [he] intervened to defend my husband. The
To the park manager, the actions of the police department were discriminatory. "When someone is looking for a place to live, we don't ask if they're residents or citizens or not. If the police really want to be able to protect us, we need to be able to trust them."
In the city of
Immigration law divides gay couples
By SUSAN CARROLL
June 14, 2009, 10:06PM
They would love to have a quiet dinner in the ranch-style home they picked out in
Instead, they will spend their anniversary some 1,500 miles apart — Racicot in Saskatchewan, Canada, and Roland in their Houston home — linked only by cell phones and the belief that they belong together, despite the difficulty of maintaining a long-distance relationship complicated by immigration issues.
Under federal law, gay and lesbian
“The bottom line is that we wouldn’t be going through this if, as an American, I had the right to sponsor my partner,” said Roland, who asked that his last name be withheld for fear of repercussions at his workplace.
Equal rights legislation
Legislation pending in Congress, the Uniting American Families Act, would create a new category in immigration law for “permanent partners” and offer same-sex couples the same benefits for immigration purposes as heterosexual couples.
John Nechman, a
“It would stop the bleeding in many ways,” he said.
But the bill is facing heated opposition by anti-immigration advocates, who say it could potentially lead to fraud. A strong voice in the pro-immigrant movement, the Catholic Church, also has taken a stand against the bill, based on the belief that marriage is strictly between a man and a woman, said Kevin Appleby, migration policy director for U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
He added that the church, long supportive of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, sees the push for same-sex couples as giving “opponents another arrow in their quiver.”
“The last thing the immigration debate needs is another politically divisive issue,” Appleby said. “Immigration is controversial enough, and to add another issue of national interest that is also controversial could be combustible.”
Racicot and Roland met online and quickly fell in love. Racicot, a bodybuilder, wrote Roland poetry. Roland called Racicot “my shining knight.”
Roland, 53, flew to
At first, Racicot had little problem traveling back and forth from
Flagged by Customs
In December 2004, Racicot was questioned by a Customs inspector after returning from
With more paperwork to document his degree, Racicot was granted another TN visa in
He was taken out of the U.S. Customs line and questioned. Racicot had changed jobs, and the inspector said that he no longer met the visa qualifications.
Racicot said he was honest with the inspector. Racicot, 47, said: “I want to be with my partner. I want to live with my partner in
Now, in hindsight, Racicot said, it was a “bad mistake.”
Customs officials are trained to determine if a visa applicant intends to stay in the
Given an option
The inspector gave Racicot the chance to withdraw his visa application, which meant he could reapply later instead of being outright denied and barred from returning to the
“Our lives just abruptly changed,” Roland said. “It wasn’t like someone dying, because we could still talk on the phone, but we were alone, separated. It was just a travesty.”
Racicot filed another application in 2006 for permission to enter the
It’s now been a little over three years since he visited Roland in
As the separation dragged on for years, and Roland racked up frequent-flier miles going to
“The love is solid,” Roland said, “but the distance has strained our relationship.”
Roland said he has considered selling his house and giving up his job to head to
He said he doesn’t want to lose Racicot, although it would mean giving up everything they worked for in
Recently, the couple had a conversation they’ve had many times before.
“If you had a wish, a want, in life,” Roland asked, “what would it be?”
Racicot didn’t hesitate: “I would wish I could be there with you, at home, and it would be like it used to be.”
That, Roland said, is exactly his wish, too.
AT A GLANCE
Under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, immigration officials are prohibited from recognizing gay marriages, even from states where they are now legal. Pending legislation would change that by creating a category for “permanent partners” in immigration law. Supporters say the legislation, known as the Uniting American Families Act, would give gay and lesbian couples equal rights for immigration purposes and unite families. Opponents say it could lead to fraud, and will complicate an already divisive immigration debate.
Court turns down
The Associated Press
Monday, June 15, 2009 1:12 PM
The court rejected a challenge by
El Paso County Attorney Jose Rodriguez said Monday that the local governments knew the case was something of a long shot - the high court previously turned away a legal challenge to the Homeland Security secretary's authority to speed up fence construction - but believed the lengthy court fight was worthwhile.
"Unfortunately the court didn't indicate why they denied ... so we'll never know, but we gave it our best shot," Rodriguez said. "And this litigation raised a lot of public awareness at the local, state and even national level about these issues about border security."
As the suit worked its way through the court system, most of the fencing in question was built.
Federal authorities have completed about 630 miles of the promised 670-miles-long vehicle and pedestrian fencing. Much of the unfinished portion is in south
The future of much of the unfinished section of fencing is in limbo while a judge sorts through issues related to private property in the fence's path.
The case is
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