Immigrant Rights News – Monday, June 15, 2009
1. KVOA: Home invasion suspects tied to border group
2. Seattle Times: Everett woman held in Arizona slayings had been ousted from Minuteman group
3. IndyMedia: Pomona police department uses explosive devices in raid on mobile home park
4. Houston Chronicle: Immigration law divides gay couples
5. Washington Post: Court turns down Texas counties over border fence
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 Pima County, Ariz.
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 Everett, Wash., has recently been living in Arizona and was once associated with the better known and larger Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.
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 Tucson on Friday. He said Forde was the ringleader.
"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."
Stonex, of Alamagordo, N.M., said he met Forde while on an Arizona border watch operation last fall, and liked her despite her reputation in the Minutemen community.
"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 New Mexico, but was secretive about her group or its members.
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 Arizona and asked him to bring bandages to an Arivaca home because Bush had been wounded.
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.
Everett woman held in Arizona slayings had been ousted from Minuteman group
By Kristi Heim
Seattle Times reporter
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 Washington state chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a national organization known for its surveillance of the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico.
Forde, who grew up in Everett and ran unsuccessfully for Everett City Council in 2007, was ousted by the Minuteman group two years ago for "conduct unbecoming of a member."
Forde, 41, then created the anti-illegal immigration group and focused its attention on the Mexican border with Arizona.
According to police, Forde and two associates planned and carried out an invasion robbery May 30 in the border town of Arivaca, Ariz. It left Raul Junior Flores, 29, and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia, dead.
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 Flores' wife found a gun in the house and shot back. He was arrested Thursday at a nearby hospital, where he was treated for a gunshot wound to his leg. Forde and Gaxiola were arrested separately Friday on the road near Tucson.
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 Washington state, said Forde was dismissed from the group in February 2007 for violating its operating procedures and behaving inappropriately. He gave no further explanation Sunday.
Since then Ray said his group has had no connection with Forde or her Minutemen American Defense.
"MCDC extends our heartfelt sympathy to the Flores family and regrets their loss," Ray wrote in an e-mail.
Chuck Stonex, of Alamogordo, N.M., said Forde recruited him last fall to start a new chapter of her group in New Mexico. Stonex said Forde called him May 30, the day of the attack, while he was in Arizona. Stonex said Forde told him Bush had been shot in the leg and needed him to help dress the wound.
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 United States of America."
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 North Everett home, and that a week later she had been raped and beaten at the house, according to a story in The Herald newspaper. First she suggested the attacks were carried out by the Mexican drug cartels, then later told police the assaults may have been carried out by friends of her adult son.
Forde's mother, who lives in California and who talked to The Herald, said her daughter had visited her and had talked of going down to Arizona and staging home invasions to "start taking things away from the Mexican mafia."
In August, Forde visited a Minuteman camp in Campo, Calif., according to Deborah Craig, a member of Campo Minuteman, in a Sunday e-mail to The Times.
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 Camp Vigilance and was given access to the site. "She purchased a bulletproof vest from the caretaker and indicated she planned to spend the night," Craig stated.
Forde told Craig she did most of her border watching in Arizona and had her own group, the Minutemen American Defense.
"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
Pomona police department uses explosive devices in raid on mobile home park
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 1096 Mission Boulevard.
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 Pomona Police Department, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department. They entered the park, knocking down a fence to gain entry.
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 Pomona police made him testify against the attackers, and there were all kinds of threats against him. Now he's in jail, and he doesn't know his rights because he doesn't speak much English, and he is at risk of being attacked by the same people who stabbed him last year!"
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 Pomona, where bi-monthly police checkpoints and police disruption of a community forum last August have already eroded any last traces of community trust law enforcement, no concern is greater.
Immigration law divides gay couples
By SUSAN CARROLL
June 14, 2009, 10:06PM
Joseph Racicot and his partner, Roland, will celebrate their eighth anniversary as a couple on Tuesday.
They would love to have a quiet dinner in the ranch-style home they picked out in Houston, share a bottle of cabernet sauvignon and rehash the story of how they met.
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 U.S. citizens are not entitled to apply for legal status for their partners, even if their marriage is recognized by state law. That has left an estimated 36,000 binational, same-sex couples like Roland and Racicot with few options to legally build lives together in the U.S., according to Immigration Equality, a New York-based advocacy organization.
“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 Houston attorney who specializes in gay and lesbian immigration issues, said the legislation is about equal rights and family unification, and could help reduce flight of same-sex couples to the 19 countries that offer them some immigration benefits.
“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 Canada to visit Racicot, and Racicot came to Houston on tourist visas. After they had dated long-distance for two years, they found what appeared to be a longer-term solution for their situation. In 2003, Racicot was approved for a TN visa, which is available to Canadians under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
At first, Racicot had little problem traveling back and forth from Canada to Houston. But, as with much of immigration law and policy, his visa requirements were complex and subject to interpretation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors each time he entered the U.S.
Flagged by Customs
In December 2004, Racicot was questioned by a Customs inspector after returning from Canada and was refused admission because of questions about his education qualifications, he said.
With more paperwork to document his degree, Racicot was granted another TN visa in Minneapolis in 2005. But he was flagged in a Department of Homeland Security database by the time he tried to return to Houston from a trip to Canada in June 2006.
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 Houston.”
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 U.S. beyond the terms dictated by their visa. Nechman said a long-term relationship with a partner frequently has been interpreted by inspectors as “intent” to overstay or remain permanently in the U.S.
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 U.S. for up to five years. Racicot returned home to Canada.
“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 U.S. That application was denied in April 2008.
It’s now been a little over three years since he visited Roland in Houston.
As the separation dragged on for years, and Roland racked up frequent-flier miles going to Canada, the couple started to struggle.
“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 Canada, where same-sex relationships are recognized for immigration purposes.
He said he doesn’t want to lose Racicot, although it would mean giving up everything they worked for in Houston.
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 Texas counties over border fence
The Associated Press
Monday, June 15, 2009 1:12 PM
EL PASO, Texas -- The Supreme Court on Monday refused to get involved in local Texas governments' fight against hundreds of miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The court rejected a challenge by El Paso and other counties to a lower court ruling dismissing a lawsuit against Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The local governments have argued that Napolitano's predecessor, Michael Chertoff, improperly waived 37 federal laws that could have slowed or blocked construction of fencing along the border that is intended to deter illegal immigrants.
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 Texas, where residents and local governments have also been staunch opponents of the fencing authorized by Congress to help secure the border and slow illegal immigration. Congress gave Chertoff the power to waive the federal laws in 2005.
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 County of El Paso v. Napolitano, 08-751.
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