Note: Except for a handful of hardy folks, most never came near the
border. The SPLC of course has it's own agenda.
Legislatures, others step in, says Southern Poverty Law Center
Report: Border-watch groups vanishing
Tim Steller Arizona Daily Star |
Posted: Sunday, March 18, 2012 12:00 am | Comments
The Minuteman border-watch movement that exploded in Southern Arizona
in the last decade has virtually disappeared, a new report says.
But that's in part because the members' concerns about illegal
immigration have been adopted by other groups and state legislatures,
the Southern Poverty Law Center said in its annual report on groups
it considers part of the political extreme.
In 2011, the number of groups termed by the center as "nativist
extremists" - such as the Minuteman - declined by 42 percent, but at
the same time the number of anti-government "Patriot" groups grew to
record levels, the center said. The 1,274 extreme anti-government
groups tabbed as belonging to the Patriot movement was the highest
number since the center counted 858 in 1996.
The center attributed the growth in the number of these groups to the
country's economic difficulties, a proliferation in conspiracy
theories about the government and the president, and the prospect of
four more years of the Obama presidency, among other factors.
In conducting its annual census of what it considers extremist
groups, the center tries to differentiate between groups critical of
the federal government and those motivated by groundless conspiracy
theories, such as that the government is planning to round up
citizens in concentration camps, said Heidi Beirich, director of the
center's intelligence project.
The center tracks such groups, she said, because "we're concerned
about domestic terrorism."
Adherents to these beliefs sometimes become so convinced "that the
government is going to imminently do some kind of harm that they
decide to take some kind of action," she said.
But not everyone considers the Alabama-based law center, which began
as a civil-rights group in 1971, a reliable source on extremism.
Longtime Arizona Republic reporter Jerry Kammer, now a staffer at the
Center for Immigration Studies in Virginia, has written several
critiques of the center's work, especially on anti-illegal-
Kammer called it a "hysteria and hype machine that cons the well
intentioned but poorly informed."
"In its hysteria to sound the alarm about 'record levels' of hate,
the SPLC assembles phony and trivial statistics that distract
attention from the truly dangerous groups," Kammer said via email.
Members of Arizona's Constitution Party were surprised to hear they
are classified as an extreme anti-government Patriot group. The party
is "anti-big-government" but not "completely anti-government," said
James Hoodenpyle, chairman of the party's Maricopa County branch.
The Libertarian Party, for example, probably believes in a more
limited government than the Constitution Party does, Hoodenpyle said.
This is how the law center describes Patriot groups: "Patriot groups
define themselves as opposed to the 'New World Order,' engage in
groundless conspiracy theorizing, or advocate or adhere to extreme
"Listing here," the center said, "does not imply that the groups
themselves advocate or engage in violence or other criminal
activities, or are racist."
The center began tracking another category, what it calls "nativist
extremist" groups, after the Minuteman movement exploded in the
mid-2000s. These groups distinguish themselves from regular anti-
illegal-immigration opinion by directly confronting suspected illegal
immigrants at the border, at day-labor centers or elsewhere, Beirich
The number of active groups in this category hit a peak of 319 in
2010 before declining to 184 last year, the center says.
Infighting, bad press and co-opting of the movement has driven its
decline, Beirich said. Groups such as the Arizona-based Minuteman
Civil Defense Corps, once the best known of this category, splintered
and dissolved. The arrest of one-time Minuteman Shawna Forde, for
murdering an Arivaca man and his daughter in 2009, also drove people
Most important, Beirich said, anti-illegal-immigrant actions were
taken up by state legislatures and absorbed as a major concern by
groups such as the tea parties and the Republican Party. Many people
who once concerned themselves with border-watch activities moved on
to the broader concerns of the tea-party movement, she said.
Another concern was safety as Mexico's drug traffickers raised their
level of violence, said Al Garza, a one-time leader of the Minuteman
Civil Defense Corps.
"For anyone on this side to make a stand against them would be
foolish," he said.
Garza's experience also traced the arc of the border-watch movement.
He left the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps in 2009 to form a separate
group called the Patriots Coalition but now informally consults with
tea-party groups and others who share his concerns about the border
and rule of law, Garza said.
Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/border/report-border-watch-