Christian Peacemaker Teams have a presence on the Arizona border in order to observe the Minute Men who have taken it upon themselves to report "illegal immigrants" to the Border Patrol. The interaction between Migrants and US anglos is a terrible and overwhelmingly complicated situation, and already scarred by much tragedy. I used to think that if only people knew the facts, they could work out a reasonable approach to a problem, but I no longer think so. We have so few forums in which different people with different knowledge and different points of view can sit down peaceably and talk. We have increasingly hatred among ourselves, and quiet people of good faith on all sides feel compelled to accept being corralled in with extremists.
The following is an article from www.cpt.org:
CPTnet, April 9, 2005
Arizona/Sonora: Watching the wAtchers
Two CPT Arizona members, both grandparents, spent a day watching "Minuteman Project" personnel. The Minutemen, a vigilante group were watching for migrants to cross fromm Mexico into the United States West of Douglas, Arizona.
CPT members have been trained as "Legal Observers" by Ray Ibarra, law student and representative of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). During training, Ray said, "The problem to be addressed is not the Minutemen themselves, but the fear and misunderstanding among the U.S. people that is allowing hundreds of migrants to die in the desert while they seek available work...in the U.S."
The CPT members and three other observers, in T-shirts labeled "Legal Observer" and "observadores legales" and carrying vido cameras, deployed themselves to high points above the broken barbed wire fence that represents the U.S.-Mexico border. East and West as far as the eye could see along the hilly road, Minuteman pickups, vans and SUV´s with California, texas and other registrations were parked at quarter mile intervals. About two hundred minutemen sat in camp chairs and peered south through their binoculars.
Who are the Minutemen? They are women and men, many grandmothers and grandfatehrs, who believe that the U.S. government is not doing enough to stop thousands of migrants from entering the U.S. Some of them believe that these migrants are "diluting" American culture. A few Minutement carry side arms, which is legal inArizona, and state that they intend to stop any migrants they encounter and turn them over to the Border Patrol. Ray Ibarra said, "stopping and/or confining anyone except for a breach of the peace is illegal undr U.S. law." The planned actions of the Minutemen make them vigilantes.
Despite rumours to the contrary, no migrants appeared. During the afternoon, Mexican authorities on four wheelers were seen to be scouring their frontier making sure that migrants were moved to less confrontational areas of the border.
The CPT suffered no ill treatment apart from some dehydration and sun burn. Two senior citizen men passed the time of day with the CPTers, and two sheriffs invited the CPTers to call on them for assistance, if needed, as well as warning them of sharp bushes, rattlesnakes and wildcats. Cochise Sheriff Larry Dever said, "I am very pleased that there has been no violence and no arrests so far, despite several Minuteman demonstrations on the weekend."
Hearing of Dever's words, Ray Ibarra commented, "There was no violence because local law enforcement have alllowed the Minutemen a free hand to operate in Cochise County." In some California and Texas counties, law enforcement has shut down vigilante activity.
In light of recent abuses that have been perpetrated by Minutemen Project personnel and the lack of response by local and federal officials, it promises to be another long, hot summer for undocumented migrants in the Sonoran desert.
And some correspondence from CPT members in Arizona:
11 April 2005
[Three] VPT Arizona members went on their first night patrol in the Coronado National Forest, about an hour's drive North-West of Douglas. It is a hot spot for Mexican migrants moving through the area with Minuteman Project personnel camping nearby and trying to turn migrants over to the Border Patrol. CPT members work with "Legal Observers" who, like CPT workers, are connected to the "No More Deaths" Campaign in the desert.
When CPT members and two Legal Observers arrived at the forest just after dark, ten migrants were already in the hands of Border Patrol officers. A Minuteman allegedly assaulted a Legal Observer by pushing his camera down. The Legal Observer called the sheriff who arrived in ten minutes to investigate the charge and counter charges. The Legal Observers left, the CPT members remained, and the sheriff departed giving both groups warnings of an arrest if he had to return. Silent tension remained between CPT members and the Minutemen until, eventually, all of the Minutemen left the area.
[One CPTer] decided to stay in the CPT vehicle while [the other two] patrolled a dirt road paralleling the highway outside the park where Minutemen were camped for the night. As identification the CPTers used glow sticks attached to their red hats. They walked the back trails from the direcdtion that migrants would be walking in a potential encounter with Minutement.
CPT members met three groups of older Minutemen from Illinois, Colorado and Florida. Some of the exchanges went like this: "Who are you? You must be scouts for migrants. You won't mind if we call immigration?" Another speaking into his walky-talky, "They are at my osition right now." Another Minuteman asked, "What are you guys doing?" [The CPTers] replied, We're just out for a walk in the desert. We are Christian Peacemaker Teams Members and we want to make sure there is no violence." A Minuteman's response, "You don't need to be here. There is no voilence. Yous houldn't be out walking at night. Someone might shoot you." CPT members' reply, "And you guys say there's no violence?" HIs response, "You shouldn't be walking along [the dirt road] and tripping hte Border Patrol¿s sensors and disturbing people You should walk along the highway; it is safer."
A Minuteman who had shone an extremely bright light into [a CPTer's] eyes. momentarily blinding him (an agressive act usually intended for migrants) replied when asked the wattage of his light, "That's of no consequence." [The CPTer] replied, "You know in the desert it is a tradition to offer water and food to strangers. Do you have some water?" The man sent the CPTers to his partner in another car where they received a bottle of water to share.
[The two CPTers] held friendly conversations with Michael from Illinois and Grady from Colorado who appreciated that the CPT members were Christians. At one point Michael said, "I wish there could be a guest migrant visa that would permit these migrants to work at available jobs in the U.S. and then go home to Mexico." [A CPTer] replied, "we couldn't agree more."
12 April 2005
Below are selections from the CPT journal from the Arizona/Sonora Peacemaker Team.
"Conflict zones are famous for rumors. Everywhere CPT members work they are careful to identify rumors and avoid passing them on....Douglas, Arizona is as vulnerable to rumors as any place where CPT has a presence.
"Here, U.S. border enforcement policy deliberately channels migrants into the most deadly, inhospitable areas of the desert leading to hundreds of people's deaths each year as they attempt to cross the border.
"As well, currently a vigilante gropup called the Minuteman Project is present in the region. One of their goals is to round up migrants and turn them over to Border Patrol personnel. The Minuteman PRoject personnel believe the U.S. government is not doing enough to keep pople out of the U.S: if they don't have official immigration documents. Here in Douglas, a lot of rumors have been flying around. When I asked a season rporter if this was common, he said, "No, people are scared."
Here are some of the rumors I heard recently over a cup of coffee:
- Wal-Mart in Douglas has stopped selling bullets during... April in response to the presence of the Minuteman Project.
- The local schools, including the local college, have had special meetings to talk about what to do in the event that Minuteman personnel come on campus with weapons.
- Because some of the Minuteman personnel are camping in the Wal-Mart parking lot, supervisors at the store have said that it is ok if people do not want to report to work because of fear of confrontation.
- White civilians have been knocking on doors and asking people their citizenship.
- Triple A has been telling its members to not travel through Douglas becaue of increased threats of violence.
"These rumors may or may not be true, and some would be easy to trace. I think the significance of these rumors is that many reasonable people believe them to be true, and this speaks to the level of terror that many people in Douglas are feeling. The population of Douglas is 80% Hispanic. The MInuteman Project and the presenceof other white supremacist groups has made many people feel like outsiders in their own city and country.