May 26, 2000

LULAC Decries Arizona Border Vigilantes

Volunteer Neighborhood Ranch Watch Activities Amount to Human Hunting

Washington, DC — The League of United American Citizens (LULAC) deplores the blatant race baiting and intolerance of the Volunteer Neighborhood Ranch Watch program advertisements broadcast in Arizona. Their advertisement flyers invite winter visitors to join Neighborhood Watch Programs for "Fun In the Sun" with the purpose of rounding up "illegals."

"We cannot accept that these ranchers are promoting Spotters Programs to detect and apprehend illegal aliens with the use of weapons, dogs, signal flares, and trip wires under the auspices of the local Sheriff's Department," said Rick Dovalina, LULAC National President. "These migrants are human beings and the ranchers' actions are tantamount to hunting. If they were pursuing animals, their actions would be considered illegal."

The highly volatile situation along the U.S.-Mexico border threatens to become a dangerous flashpoint for violence and human rights abuses. Vigilante ranchers of Cochise County have been conducting armed arrests of Mexican undocumented workers crossing into the United States in the border region near Agua Prieta, Sonora and Douglas, Arizona. The ranchers are attempting to form militia type organizations to guard the border areas where these are gaps in Border Patrol coverage.

The ranchers offer to provide RV spaces at look-out points and encourage small aircraft owners to act as liaisons with ground spotters and the Sheriff's department. In the border area of Del Rio and Eagle Pass, Texas, in similar exercises, at least five immigrants have been shot in the past year — two were killed.

The very real danger is that the ranchers are acting in place of law enforcement without any clear authority or limitations," said Dovalina. "They are seeking to become deputized so they can charge immigrants with assault against an officer, a federal crime, should the immigrant attempt to defend him or herself. These types of paramilitary actions establish dangerous precedents which are potentially life threatening."

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization in the United States. LULAC advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, health, and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating at more than 700 LULAC councils nationwide.

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