AN OFFICER SAFETY Bulletin produced by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has several local immigration reform leaders angry enough to spit.
The October 25 bulletin from the INS intelligence division characterizes several area immigration reform groups as being anti-immigration hate groups whose presence on the border may be a threat to illegal aliens and border patrol agents.
The five-page bulletin, which was sent to Chief Patrol Agent David Aguilar of the Tucson Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol, focuses on Ranch Rescue, a gathering of groups that assisted Douglas-area ranchers with cleanup and fence-mending chores over the weekend of October 27 to 29. The bulletin insinuates that the participants in that gathering could be armed and potentially dangerous.
The other groups listed in the bulletin as constituting a potential threat to migrants and patrol agents were the Concerned Citizens of Cochise County (CCCC), Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR), California Coalition for Immigration Reform, National Organization for European American Rights, Ku Klux Klan, Arizonans for Immigration Reform (AIR), National Grassroots Alliance, Foundation for Optimal Planetary Survival, Alliance for Stabilizing America's Population and the Immigration Reform Advocates.
Aguilar confirmed the bulletin is authentic and was generated at the INS headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Aguilar told the Weekly his office was not involved in the production of the document. "No one in the (Tucson) Sector had anything to do with this. You can see this document was not done by anyone working here on the border. Someone in Washington, with limited knowledge of our situation here, wrote this thing. And they got it all wrong. I know these groups (the CCCC, AIR and FAIR). And I know many of the people in these groups. Some of my friends are in these groups. These people are not anti-immigrant, and (these) are not hate groups."
David Stoddard, a retired border patrol supervisor with 27 years of service, told the Weekly he is outraged by the bulletin. Stoddard is an active member of the CCCC who last year traveled at his own expense to testify before Congress on the problems he and his Cochise County neighbors are having along the border. Stoddard believes the bulletin is nothing more than an INS attempt to squelch criticism of its policies by besmirching its critics. "The CCCC has never been anti-immigration or anti-immigrant," said Stoddard. "And I deeply resent the inference (made in the bulletin) that we are a hate group. I think it's a sad day when our government attacks its citizens for exercising their Constitutional right to criticize their government."
Another CCCC member, John Siegal, a retired marine engineer and Elfrida rancher, said the CCCC has always been an open, multiracial organization.
"Our members," said Siegal, "are no different than Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. We simply want our existing laws enforced. It's simple. We have U.S. immigration laws on the books: Enforce them. We have never been anti-immigration, only anti-illegal immigration.
"As individuals, many of our members, who incidentally come from all walks of life, have written and telephoned our Congressional delegation to ask for federal reimbursement for our hospitals--for the millions they have lost providing care to illegal aliens," said Siegal. "We stand to lose our hospital (in Douglas) in part because of this issue."
Siegal says the CCCC is routinely in contact with all levels of local law enforcement, either asking for their assistance or just passing on information.
Recently, Siegal and his wife, Hanna, spent three days at the Conflict Resolution Center on the New Mexico State University campus at Las Cruces in dialog with other delegates from Mexico and the U.S. "We are continuing to search for peaceful solutions to some very difficult and complex border problems," said Siegal.
Ron Sanders, the former Chief Patrol Agent of the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol, is an active member of Arizonans for Immigration Reform. Since retiring from the patrol in July of 1999, Sanders has been a consistent critic of INS policy, which he claims is directly responsible for the deaths of over 1,600 illegal entrants attempting to cross into the U.S. since 1994.
Sanders says the bulletin's lumping together of legitimate groups such as the CCCC and AIR with the likes of the Klan has "done the community a grave injustice." Sanders referred to the INS bulletin as "shameful."
The INS Officer Safety Bulletin in its full form never reached the rank and file patrol agents in the Tucson Sector. Aguliar quashed it. "I only distributed that section which had to do with Ranch Rescue," said Aguilar. "I was concerned for the safety of the troops."
As for the rest of the document, said Aguilar, it didn't merit distribution.