Saturday, April 9, 2011

Fwd: AZMEX UPDATE 9-11-03

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From: Landis Aden <>
Date: March 16, 2011 5:14:46 PM MST
Subject: AZMEX UPDATE 9-11-03

 Sunday, 9 November 2003

Patrolling private property 

Border militias claim success

Arizona Daily Star photographer Max Becherer talks with Bill Skolaut about life working with Ranch Rescue. 

By Ignacio Ibarra 

DOUGLAS - First there was the faint crunch of footsteps on the gravelly desert soil, then a woman's voice and the whispering of a man in the scrubby mesquite along a wash near the U.S.-Mexican border about three miles west of here. 

In the brush, half a dozen heavily armed men wait quietly in the gathering darkness as the voices approach. 

Suddenly, the voices and the footsteps stop. After a long moment of silence, a man whispers in Spanish, "Let's go, someone's coming." 

There is more movement in the brush as some of the armed men are suddenly visible, hurrying toward the sounds, searching for the source of the voices, but they've disappeared into a maze of piled dirt and brush. 

In the darkness, the nearest visible landmark is the water tower at the Border Patrol's Douglas Station, but these aren't Border Patrol agents. They're members of Texas-based Ranch Rescue and a contingent of Missouri Militia patrolling private property they say is being invaded by criminal trespassers - some of the hundreds of illegal entrants who cross through the Douglas area each night. 

Although the patrol came up empty-handed Friday night, Ranch Rescue founder Jack Foote considers it a success. Two groups of intruders were forced off the property as the patrol moved through and at least two people were picked up by Border Patrol agents responding to a report from a Ranch Rescue observer in a tower back at the ranch house. 

"Two down, 1.5 million to go," Foote said. Best of all, he said, his volunteers got a taste of what's in store for the next two weeks as "Operation Thunderbird" gets under way. 

Beyond the numerous crossings by relatively harmless illegal immigrants, Foote said the landowner "has experienced multiple armed incursions on the property, three confirmed as Mexican military and one by armed drug traffickers." 

"They're coming across heavily armed, in uniforms, and they pose a significant threat to the health and safety of the property owner and his family," said Foote with the U.S. Border Patrol station visible over his shoulder. "We're going to provide a deterrent. No one else is willing to do it, so we're going to do it." 

Operation Thunderbird will rotate Ranch Rescue volunteers onto the former Puzzi Ranch near Douglas, recently purchased by a Ranch Rescue member. 

"We've been invited first to stabilize the security of the property, which we will do through saturation patrols," he said. 

Phase two will begin Saturday and will involve construction of facilities to house an ongoing contingent of volunteers at the ranch through April. 

U.S. Border Patrol officials and Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever could not be reached for comment. 

Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Carol Capas said they haven't had any official communication with Ranch Rescue about its plans but that individual deputies have made contact with Ranch Rescue members, and "we understand there's a lot more of them coming in." 

That's not a good thing for an area where illegal immigration is still a hot topic even though the volume of illegal immigration has decreased from the high point in 2000, said Ray Borane, the mayor of Douglas, which has passed a resolution opposing groups like Ranch Rescue. 

"They symbolize adversity. … I know what they say they're doing, but I know what's prompted their presence here. They represent a faction that considers it acceptable to take matters into their own hands. Ultimately there's going to be a problem between those people and the people they say they're there to confront," said Borane. 

Jennifer Allen, director of the Border Action Network, said the failure of federal, state and Cochise County officials to arrest and prosecute self-proclaimed border enforcers allows groups like Ranch Rescue to flourish. 

Allen said that in Texas, Ranch Rescue members were arrested after an El Salvadoran couple claimed they were beaten and terrorized by Ranch Rescue members and property owner Joe Sutton. Four others, all Mexicans, have since come forward to claim they were subjected to similar treatment by the group on Sutton's ranch. 

Ranch Rescue has been named along with Sutton in a civil suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Another criminal case, against Ranch Rescue member Casey Nethercott, continues in Hogg County, Texas. 

"I think it's incredibly dangerous. Those are the cases that are public, that we know about," Allen said. "We're concerned about the cases we haven't heard about." 

Porous borders that invite crime and terrorism pose a bigger threat than Ranch Rescue and the Missouri Militia combined, according to several of the participants of the paramilitary operation. 

Tom Kinderknecht, 50, a retired firefighter and one of five Missouri Militia members who drove in together Thursday night, said he grew up in a farming community and learned as a boy what it meant to "be ready and to be self-reliant." 

He said he's not given to conspiracy theories, but the Y2K scare reawakened those early lessons and led him to join the Missouri Militia, whose members see themselves as a service and support group for law enforcement and the community, as well as a reserve of manpower for the military when needed. 

The grandson of a European immigrant, Kinderknecht said he embraces immigration of any person of any nationality so long as they're willing to go through the legal process. 

Illegal immigration is another matter. 

"I can't imagine the desperation it takes to walk through mesquite and brush like that out there in order to escape your country. I feel for them, but we are a nation of laws and we can't have people breaking the law as their first act when they get here," he said. 

* Contact reporter Ignacio Ibarra at (520) 806-7461 or 

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