By Ignacio Ibarra
A California-based group that opposes illegal immigration is organizing a watchdog campaign in Southern Arizona to keep an eye on illegal border crossers and the U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to stop them.
But organizers say that unlike the Samaritan Patrol, launched earlier this month by Tucson religious groups with the goal of searching for border crossers in distress, the American Border Patrol will report illegal-entrant activity to the U.S. Border Patrol.
“It’s time America was told the truth,” said Glen Spencer, founder of Voices of Citizens Together and the popular Web site www.americanpatrol.com . “We will use whatever means are available to us to try to estimate the number of people coming in across the border. Then we will look at the resources available to the Border Patrol at any one time, and look at how these agents are being used.”
U.S. Border Patrol Tucson Sector Chief David Aguilar on Friday declined to comment on the growing interest by private groups in patrolling the border.
Samaritan Patrol volunteer and spokeswoman Georgia Vancza said she’s not sure how she feels about the plans of American Border Patrol to monitor the border.
“I guess my question to them is, ‘What will they do when they encounter people who are dehydrated? Are they going to offer water, food? What are they going to do? I would hope that one of their goals when they encounter people would be to help save lives,” she said.
Spencer said the American Border Patrol’s presence will be practically invisible, but added that being vigilant doesn’t equate to being inhumane.
Even Roger Barnett, a Cochise County businessman and rancher who has been described as a vigilante for apprehending illegal entrants while armed, has also been credited by the Border Patrol with saving the lives of a mother and her adult son, and providing food and water - even milk and cookies - to illegal entrants, he said.
If a medical emergency is encountered, American Border Patrol will be equipped with a broad array of communications equipment used to contact the appropriate authorities.
Spencer said he envisions a network of border residents, backed by well-screened volunteers with specialized skills, conducting around-the-clock monitoring of America’s borders. He said the goal is to post the results of its work live via the Internet.
“We will simply observe and report,” said Spencer. “We will make it very clear to volunteers that we are not a law enforcement agency.”
The organization, with an office in the Hereford area southeast of Sierra Vista, also intends to document the role Mexican law enforcement and public officials play in facilitating illegal emigration, he said.
The new organization includes former Border Patrol Chiefs Ron Sanders and Bill King on its board of directors. It has filed for federal recognition as a nonprofit organization and is expecting to begin operating in September.
King once served as chief of the Border Patrol Academy in Georgia, was chief of the El Centro Sector in California and was the Western region’s director for the implementation of the 1986 amnesty program. He said direct citizen action on the border is necessary because the Border Patrol is failing and America is being overrun by illegal immigration.
“I’m not much for hyphens,” said King. “If we’re Americans we should be standing together against this problem.”
King said using the military on the border is the only viable solution, particularly in light of the terrorist threat.
Reprinted from The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), July 20, 2002.