Stealth Force: BORTAC, Border Patrol's mobile
tactical unit, working our desert
Cochise County Group Patrols for Illegal Immigrants, Prepares to Organize in Yuma County
Some Yuma County Residents Not So Sure About Citizens' Patrol Group, Gather to Organize Opposition
Customs’ Blackhawk Assists Civil Homeland Defense With Rescue (Tombstone Tumbleweed 07/24/03)
Chris’ Editorials From Recent Editions Of The Tumbleweed
Walk In The Park No Holiday For Tombstone's Simcox (Tombstone Tumbleweed 01/30/03)
Australian Dateline Video (requires RealPlayer)
Border Patrol's mobile tactical unit, working our desert
XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson Citizen
agent stations himself on a hill that overlooks a huge area of desert west
of Tucson. He is looking for groups of suspected illegal immigrants.
ARIZONA DESERT - They work in the shadows.
hide in the hills, crouch under shrubs and lie waiting in holes in the ground.
are federal agents from the mobile tactical operations unit of the U.S. Border
Patrol, called BORTAC, and their latest mission has brought them into Tucson's
has been deployed to work with border police in Albania, Guatemala, Bolivia and
the United States, the unit participates in tracking terrorism, riot control,
guarding foreign diplomats and catching human smugglers and drug traffickers,
Unit Commander Kevin Oaks said in an interview from BORTAC headquarter in Texas
agents represent almost every state in the country and have been operating as a
well-kept secret for almost 20 years.
most notable assignment - and the one that shattered their shield of anonymity -
came in April 2000, when BORTAC agents executed a raid to ensure the safe return
of Elian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba.
battle to keep the boy in the United States failed. He had been rescued off the
coast of Florida when a boatload of Cuban refugees perished at sea.
keep a low profile and we like it that way," Oaks says.
so an invitation to the Tucson Citizen to observe the work of BORTAC agents came
with restrictions, namely that their location and identities not be revealed.
agents were deployed from Biggs Army Air Field in Texas into the Arizona desert
this summer by the Department of Homeland Security.
XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson Citizen
BORTAC agent readies himself for a 12-hour shift in the desert.
mission: Detect and deter the flow of illegal immigration and drug smuggling.
forte is once we leave the pavement," Oaks says.
self-contained operation was set up in tents in the desert within 12 hours of
BORTAC's arrival in July. In the first week, agents had apprehended 1,500
illegal immigrants and drug smugglers, according to the unit's supervisor, Agent
complement routine patrols with tactics designed to create the impression that
they are always lying in wait.
of last week, BORTAC agents had apprehended more than 7,800 people in the desert
since the operation began, he said.
Aguilar, chief patrol agent of the Tucson sector, called BORTAC an effective
resource for border security.
can be anywhere in the nation within hours," Aguilar says. "They're a
self-contained unit that does not tax the sector in any way."
stressed that BORTAC is but one component of the different missions operating in
are, he says, the "enforcers" on the border and are supported by,
among others, Search and Rescue units and plainclothes agents who follow migrant
trails and try to identify and disrupt smuggling operations.
XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson Citizen
group of suspected illegal immigrants who were caught crossing into the
United States from Mexico is watched over by an agent.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner launched
Operation Desert Safeguard this summer, he stressed that the addition of agents,
including BORTAC, into the Arizona desert was a matter of national security.
must stress, as much as we deplore the loss of life, and we do, as much as we
condemn the ruthless human smugglers who put lives at risk in order to make a
profit, and we do - the migrants crossing our borders are entering the United
States illegally and in violation of our laws," he said in June. "And
so, the United States intends to enforce its laws."
the call came about the Arizona mission, agents had less than a week to pack and
report to BORTAC headquarters in Texas.
was on a boat in Cape Cod on July 3 when I got the call," 39-year-old Agent
Bobby, from Michigan, recalls. "I was told that I had to be in El Paso on
July 5 for training before moving out to Tucson."
home in the desert consists of cots lined up in militarylike barracks, a couple
of trailers and a tent "lounge" with a television set, complete with
"rabbit ears," that gets reception from only one Tucson channel.
are mostly ready-to-eat packets that can be consumed on the go, unless agents
want to make the long journey into the nearest town to buy a meal.
packs are heavy, weighing up to 100 pounds, and are equipped with everything an
agent might need should a shift unexpectedly extend into days.
medically trained agents are also prepared to switch from law enforcement mode
into humanitarian mode should they encounter a migrant in distress.
their "lay-in" operations, where they find an observation spot, stay
put and monitor desert movement, can last days.
probably the biggest difference between BORTAC and other agents - we're willing
to work four days straight," says Agent Bobby, an 11-year veteran of the
XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson Citizen
agents search for fresh footprints of suspected illegal immigrants at
sundown. They are trying to determine how many are in the group and which
way they are traveling through the desert west of Tucson.
work is precise and calculated.
agents use their extensive training to detect groups of people crossing the
border, keep them from getting too spread out, and manage their movement in
order to get them to walk right into agents who are lying in wait in the cover
like to call it the 'Surprise' operation," says Agent Bob, 41, a 20-year
Border Patrol veteran. "Often we succeed in getting them to walk right into
our agents or step on (agents) who are laying on the ground."
a recent operation, agents find suspicious-looking footprints across a sandy
the smuggler leading this group knows that agents will be looking for footprints
and he has the group walk heel-to-toe across the trail and carefully step in
each others footprints.
race is on and agents don't know if they will encounter work-seeking migrants or
a more sinister group trying to smuggle drugs into the United States.
agents take off into the pitch-black desert on foot. By making their presence
known, they strategically "push" the group to travel down a path that
will lead them to other agents hidden in the desert, where they will be
the next road north, agents sit quietly, watching through night-vision
binoculars for signs of the group.
a nearby hill, an agent equipped with infrared lenses watches for movement and
reports to the others on the ground whenever a group changes direction or stops.
particular night, BORTAC agents are tracking three different groups.
of the groups apprehended consists of 12 men and two women from Oaxaca.
here out of necessity," says Francisca Beltran Lopez, 45.
XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson Citizen
agents live a Spartan life. One of the shelters where agents live and
sleep while on assignment west of Tucson. BELOW RIGHT: An agent hangs some
wash out to dry.
says her group was dropped off and told to walk through the desert and someone
else would pick them up once they got out of the Border Patrol's "hot
such luck on this night, as Beltran was one of 43 migrants picked up by BORTAC
agents before their shift ended.
strategy, Aguilar says, is what makes BORTAC unique.
they get to a certain point, (illegal immigrants) may think they're home free,
but really their movement is completely controlled," he says.
are a blocking force," says Agent Bob, also from Michigan. "We want
them to get used to not crossing in this area. We want them to return and tell
others, 'Don't cross. (Agents) are everywhere.'"
agents use marked and unmarked vehicles, off-road bikes, but mainly "good
old-fashioned foot power," Agent Bob says.
shifts are long and the accommodations sparse, but the men of this unit say the
job is its own reward.
you sign up for something like this, it's because you want to be here,"
says Agent Duke, 32, who has been a Border Patrol agent for six years in Texas.
"The lay-ins, being out in the brush and racing in the darkness gets your
XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson Citizen
BORTAC agent searches through garbage in an abandoned house frequented by
smugglers and illegal immigrants near Sells.
even though they are more of a law-and-order operation, agents say they
understand what drives migrants across the border.
got nothing on the their side and everything on the other side," Agent Bob
says. "They've got nothing to lose."
most frustrating part of the mission since their arrival has been the routine
discovery of dead bodies, agents say.
your politics are, you don't want people dying out there," says Agent Bob.
"It just ain't right."
at base camp revolves around working out with weights in order to stay in top
shape, eating meals and teasingly comparing notes of each team's success that
each shift, agents meet with an intelligence officer who tracks the movement of
trails and volume of activity coming across the border and dictates where agents
will go the following day.
no amount of the so-called "intel" can solve the mystery that has
agents scratching their heads back at base camp.
the good-quality "guy movies" sits a copy of the movie "My Big
Fat Greek Wedding."
snuck it into camp, but nobody will admit it," Agent Duke says, then
quickly adds, "And I haven't watched it."
Back to Top
Cochise County group that patrols the border for illegal aliens is preparing to
set up a similar organization to do the job in Yuma County.
Simcox, leader of the Civil Homeland Defense group, attaches a two-way radio to
his pants and over his bulletproof vest, in preparation for a patrol of the
Cochise County border with Mexico. Sun photo by Louie Villalobos.
COCHISE COUNTY — On Aug. 29, 13 illegal immigrants
were stopped minutes after entering the United States by way of federal land
located along southeastern Arizona's border with Mexico.
The group was asked to sit down, offered water and
first aid and told to wait while U.S. Border Patrol agents were called to pick
them up. Thinking they were already in the custody of agents, everyone in the
After being told they were being detained by a group
of citizens who regularly patrol the border in an attempt to assist Border
Patrol agents, one man in the group said listening to the citizens was a better
idea than challenging them.
"I saw the guns they have," he said.
"So we just listened."
What the man didn't know, and what the group of
citizens want everyone to know, is that they had no intention of chasing anyone
in the group and haven't pulled their weapons on any of the more than 1,600
illegal immigrants they have turned over to Border Patrol agents this year.
Instead, members of the Civil Homeland Defense group
said their mission is to find groups of illegal immigrants, ask them to stay put
and call in the agents.
It's a mission they are planning to bring to Yuma
County and one they said is being requested by up to 100 local residents who are
tired of the constant flow of illegal immigrants through the county.
"You can do this," said Chris Simcox,
president of the Civil Homeland Defense group. "And you can do it without
Sun recently spent some time with Simcox and his group as they patrolled U.S.
Bureau of Land Management land, which he said is leased to a private citizen,
near the community of Palominas, Ariz., to see exactly what kind of activity the
Civil Homeland Defense will bring to the Yuma area.
said he is planning to officially announce his group's arrival by mid-September
and said groups will be patrolling the Yuma border by October, saying the Yuma
group will eventually work independently of his.
are going to give them our model," Simcox said. "Then it will be up to
model for patrolling the border includes the use of night-vision goggles,
walkie-talkies, first-aid equipment and water — and carrying a handgun. It
also includes offering illegal immigrants first aid, water and food if they need
it and allowing those who choose to run away to do so without being pursued.
after 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 29, five volunteer members of the Civil Homeland Defense
headed into the desert in southern Cochise County. Before doing so, though, they
met in a small building used as their headquarters and discussed what the night
reminded the group to be careful in the field and to stay a safe distance away
from any illegal immigrants they might find. Less than half an hour later,
Carmen Mercer took to heart both those nuggets of advice when she was startled
by the group of 13 illegal immigrants she found walking through the desert.
used her radio to alert the rest of the group to the find, and Simcox, who was
about 20 yards west of her, took off running.
already have a group," Simcox said while sprinting through shrubs.
arriving, Simcox looked the group over, asked if they needed water and then
continued south, where he located and radioed in the location of a second group
the hour and a half it took Border Patrol agents to arrive, the illegal
immigrants were allowed to eat the food they were carrying, urinate and stretch
their feet. A man in the group was also given iodine to treat ant bites.
in the group of illegal immigrants asked why they were being detained and if
they could just be let go. When Simcox reported seeing a second group walking
north, a man in the group being detained offered up the second group as a
he said, "they can let us go and get them, instead. We just want to
and Cindy Kolb, another member of Civil Homeland Defense, both laughed at the
plea bargain being offered by the man, who said he was heading to Kentucky to
several immigrant rights groups are currently campaigning against Civil Homeland
Defense, Kolb made sure to record everything that happened before agents
arrived, something Simcox said was insurance in case a criminal complaint is
ever filed against him.
several calls to the Border Patrol and an increased sense of nervousness on the
part of the Civil Homeland Defense members, the illegal immigrants were asked to
walk to a more open area, where agents eventually picked them up and asked
members of the volunteer group if they had seen any other activity.
stayed on patrol until after 9 p.m. but decided to call it a night when he
noticed an increased presence of Border Patrol agents in the area immediately
after agents took the 13 illegal immigrants into custody.
then, no agents had been spotted patrolling the area.
happens every time," Simcox said of the agents showing up in force after
being given the group of illegal immigrants. "That's OK, though, it means
they are doing their job and that's all we want."
Villalobos can be reached
at email@example.com or 539-6858.
The 13 illegal immigrants detained by
members of the Civil Homeland Defense group gather to eat bologna sandwiches
from food they carried with them from Mexico. Craig Howard (background), with
his dog, watches over the group. Sun photo by Louie Villalobos
BY LOUIE VILLALOBOS
Sep 7, 2003
SOMERTON — Sitting inside a south
county restaurant recently, a group of Yuma County officials and residents
gathered to discuss a topic that has them both worried and angered: the arrival
of a citizen's group that will patrol the county's border with Mexico in search
of illegal immigrants.
In the room was a state representative,
a staff member of a U.S. congressman, a local mayor, a land developer and
several residents. All had the same message for Chris Simcox and his Civil
Homeland Defense group.
"We do not want these people
here," said Nieves Riedel, owner of Riedel Construction in San Luis, Ariz.
"They should let the Border Patrol do their job."
Simcox has promised to bring his group
to Yuma County within a week to train locals to patrol Yuma County's border with
Mexico by October. His group, Civil Homeland Defense, currently patrols Cochise
County's border with Mexico and has turned over more than 1,600 illegal
immigrants to U.S. Border Patrol agents, he said.
But that kind of activity is not
welcome in southern Yuma County and will be met with protest, the restaurant
Also concerned about Simcox is a Tucson-area immigrant rights group, which recently launched a binational campaign to search out illegal immigrants who have had their rights violated by any of the three citizens groups patrolling the Tucson area.
Jennifer Allen, director of The Border
Action Network, said Yuma-area residents should be concerned with Simcox's plans
and should make their concerns known to state and county officials.
"Put signs in businesses,"
she said. "Make it very visible and public that these sorts of individuals
and activity will not be tolerated in the community."
Allen said the search for illegal
immigrants who have been physically assaulted by any of the groups patrolling in
Cochise County has turned up nothing so far.
Carol Capas, public information officer
for the Cochise County Sheriff's Office, said the department hasn't had any
complaints by illegal immigrants regarding the civilian patrols, adding officers
interview every illegal immigrant detained by citizens.
That fact, Simcox said, means what his
group is doing is not only legal, but humane.
"If we catch anyone harassing or
abusing any migrants, I would arrest them on the spot," he said.
"Because that is not what this is about."
Back in the Somerton restaurant, Luis
Heredia, who runs the Yuma office for U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, said what
Simcox's group is about is racism toward Hispanics.
Somerton Mayor Agustin Tumbaga and
state Rep. Amanda Aguirre, of Yuma, said they will work against Simcox's group.
Among the responses being considered is
asking local officials to take a stance against Simcox and enlisting the help of
pro-immigrants groups, such as Allen's.
Nena Garcia, a citizen of Gadsden, said
residents there are worried that Simcox's group will mistake residents for
illegal immigrants because of the high number of Hispanics living in the area.
She said the community is already
rampant with illegal immigrant activity and residents are already fearful for
their safety. They don't need armed citizens adding to their fear, she said.
"Does that mean we are going to
have to have our citizenship with us at all times, just for the sake of these
people?" she asked. "And do we have to answer to them?"
Simcox said the Yuma-area residents who
want to stop illegal immigration should consider patrolling the border area east
of San Luis, Ariz., where there are no residents, as apposed to the Gadsden-San
Luis area, which has a border with Mexico that is lined with residents.
The main thing for residents to know,
he said, is that his group doesn't automatically pull their weapons and doesn't
harm illegal immigrants in any way.
For residents wanting to take part in
the patrols, Simcox said they should know it is perfectly legal to do so.
Louie Villalobos can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858.
A Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Tucson Air Blackhawk helicopter responded to a call for assistance from Civil Homeland Defense Friday night as the volunteer citizen border watch group encountered 15 illegal aliens hiding in a wash near the San Pedro River.
Three children, ages 4, 6, 7 were among the group who were originally from Pueblo and Chiapas, Mexico. The group had been traveling for five days and was desperately in need of water and food, which was provided by CHD volunteers.
With rain showers and cloud cover bringing temperatures below the 100-degree mark, border crossings have been intense during the past week. Friday, July 18, Civil Homeland Defense volunteers were involved in a late afternoon search and rescue patrol in an area near the San Pedro River when a report of Border Patrol Agents coming under gunfire as was heard over radio transmissions. Agents were near the border just East of Palominas in the same vicinity as the CHD Patrol. Within thirty minutes volunteers encountered three young males who carried no water in the remote area. The suspected illegal immigrants refused water and ran from volunteers despite pleas for them to stop. Border Patrol was notified and agents continued the pursuit.
Approximately thirty minutes later CHD members found twelve adults and three children huddled in a wash. Border Patrol was notified and dispatched a Tucson Air Blackhawk helicopter to assist in the rescue.
Volunteers offered water to the group and comforted the children as the Border Patrol helicopter hovered overhead until ground based agents arrived to take the group to safety and return them to Mexico.
Later the same evening volunteers encountered a group of 25 illegal aliens being led through the same area by a coyote smuggler. The group was also from Pueblo, Mexico. Five young children were found traveling with the group. They were almost entirely out of water and food and two illegal entrants required medical attention. During the hour wait for Border Patrol to arrive the group consumed five gallons of water provided by CHD volunteers.
During three days of patrols Civil Homeland Defense volunteers assisted Border Patrol with 69 apprehensions including three coyote smugglers.
Volunteers are needed for expanded search and rescue patrols in an effort to prevent more deaths in Cochise County, which now stand at 31 since January 1, 2003. To date CHD volunteers have turned over 1,405 illegal aliens to Border Patrol without incident.
Civil Homeland Defense informational meetings
are held every Wednesday night, 7 p.m. at the O.K. Café, Third and Allen
Streets in Tombstone. For more information contact Chris Simcox 520-457-3008.
Back to Top
Initiative needed to restore law and order in voting and obtaining state funded welfare benefits
Randy Graf, a Republican who represents District 30 in the Arizona House of Representatives, is confident that a proposed initiative to do nothing more than follow the law will win by a landslide. The peoples’ initiative is causing an initial knee jerk, negative reaction that is already drawing the expected “racist and anti-immigrant” name calling from the open border proponents. “Democrats will do political grandstanding and name-calling,” said Graf, who is his party’s majority whip in the state House of Representatives.
The initiative means to enforce laws already on the books in 31 states, and is not getting support from governor Napolitano and even the Arizona Republican Party leadership. The state’s GOP congressional delegation won’t support the initiative brought by the citizens of Arizona. The initiative will require people to prove citizenship to be able to vote and ensure non-U.S. citizens do not obtain unauthorized benefits. I am more than confident it will be passed by voters next year, and I personally will work to ensure it does.
Get ready to draw a “line in the sand” and challenge the divisive tactics from those who have nothing more intelligent to say than “you’re a racist.” Examples: Jennifer Allen, Raul Grijalva, and most of the Democrats in the country, ‘cause they just don’t see the damage illegal immigration is doing to our economy and our Constitution. You know the kind of dissension I’m taking about--the approximately 50% of citizens who have no merit to their debate and resorts to name calling
The initiative is not changing Arizona’s Constitution, but it would change parts of two state statutes to strengthen the Constitution regarding the registration of voters. There is nothing wrong with citizens demanding that only citizens are voting in elections and obtaining benefits paid for by taxpayers.
The statute regarding voter registration already requires the state or country of birth to be provided and would add a requirement that applicants submit proof of U.S. citizenship and provide the ways it can be done in order for a voter to be registered. Makes sense to me.
“The state’s Constitution requires a person to be a citizen of the nation and state, and statutes are enacted to provide how voters are registered,” Randy Graf said at last week’s meeting. And what the hell is wrong with that? This is the most common sense approach to upholding our Constitutional cannons that I could ever think of. Thirty-one other states feel this is important and they require the same proof of citizenship; does anyone call those state governments or citizens racists?
“We are not violating any law. We are not violating anybody’s constitutional rights,” Graf said, adding that the requirement is for all people who register in the state and is not race based. “It applies to everyone.” Gee you mean something like the fourteenth amendment that guarantees equal protection for everyone?
There are many idiots who think the initiative is designed to take voting rights away from minority groups, especially Hispanics. What do they mean? Do they advocate breaking the law? Do they advocate having people from another country voting in our elections? I wonder--if Governor Napolitano is against the initiative, then is she involved in pandering for illegal votes? Were the illegal voters the only reason she won the election in the first place? Of course she won’t support the initiative because it would mean she would lose her voting base during the next election cycle.
Part of the initiative is to ensure people seeking some benefits, such as health care or welfare, are authorized to have them and it’s about time. I’m sick enough of paying for fat, lazy, apathetic American citizens and I sure won’t support paying for people from another country who have entered our nation illegally.
We have the petitions in the Tumbleweed office. Stop by and read the initiative in its entirety and sign the petition. If you are not yet a registered voter we have voter registration forms and we’ll get you signed up. It’s about time we get back to the rule of law in this country.
Can’t Find The Vigilantes
I read in an Associated Press story that the government of Mexico has amended its Constitution to allow migrants, most of whom are in the United States illegally, to vote and even run as candidates in Mexican elections while in the United States. Show up at your local Mexican consulate office and vote for your party’s candidate while taking jobs from Americans; One World IS Enough For ALL OF US?
“This law serves to recognize the political rights of migrants,” said Zacatecas Gov. Ricardo Monreal. Now how about this unbelievable fact from the story: “There are about 1.5 million Zacatecans, half of the state’s population, spread across 20 U.S. states.” And most are here illegally! Border Patrol should surround every Mexican consulate office in this country; the agency should be required to interview every person who shows up for a matricular consular I.D. card. And B.I.C.E. should immediately deport every person who cannot prove legal residence.
That would be called upholding the rule of law? Ah, but American Idol and The Osbornes are more important than rule of law.
Speaking of rule of law, I see Arizona Gov. Napolitano is in Mexico working out a deal to allow more Mexican citizen workers to take American jobs. Remember, guest worker means the visitor should first have to be invited, then, when it’s time, they return home. The employer is the invitee, and they should be held accountable for providing the visitors with a couch to sleep on, feed them, entertain them and take care of their medical care during their visit here, which is supposedly because they want to work. Then, when it’s time, the employer should make sure they return home safely and without costing the American taxpayer one red cent.
Nappy has also had some strong words for the “vigilantes” running rampant on the border. First she says the groups are not as powerful or widespread as people think and they have no political power. Oh really? Then why are you even talking about them Nappy? And you know in some ways Nappy is right. Civil Homeland Defense has been patrolling the bprder for over a year now and I’ll have to admit, after over 150 patrols to assist Border Patrol, we have never run into any vigilantes on the border! Can’t find them anywhere! Guess Nappy is correct about there not being that many of them, I think they are about as rare as the leprechaun guarding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - I agree, they are just a figment of the media’s imagination.
And I’ll tell you what Nappy, if we ever run across anyone out in our neighborhood abusing illegal migrants or even taking advantage of a member of Al-Quaeda, I will personally make a citizen’s arrest of the perpetrators and bring them directly to your doorstep if you want us to. There is no place for abusive vigilantism. I wonder if tarring and feathering politicians is considered vigilantism?
There are however, over a hundred people in the Yuma area who will be attending a meeting in September to learn how to create their own version of Civil Homeland Defense. Their actions are in direct reaction to your cowardice and abandonment of the Constitution you took an oath to uphold. Sounds like Nappy may be in the sights of a citizen recall just like the one in California. Time for us to fight back with our votes, Nappy - that’s the American way.
Enough is Enough! Time is here for a recall of every elected official who refuses to protect our borders!
Isn't it just amazing that our governor can make a trip to Mexico City to confer with Fox to discuss allowing more illegal aliens into our state. Facts prove that illegal aliens cost Arizona taxpayers over $1 billion a year which is what the budget shortfall is. She has already vetoed a bill to insure that only American citizens can vote. She has already proclaimed that illegal aliens should be authorized drivers licenses. All of this happening when Phoenix has a monumental gas shortage problem and also last week, the TV news stations stated that Phoenix has lost electrical power in much
of the city. Who is this governor working for?
Submitted by Jim Nixon
A Walk In The
Park No Holiday For Tombstone’s Simcox
By Kate Hargrave
A vibrant morning sun reflected off the crayon yellow school bus as I pulled into the parking lot of the Visitor’s Center of the Coronado National Memorial, nestled at the base of this region’s Huachuca Mountains. Children on a field trip from a local school were investigating a shady nature trail as I walked into the Hacienda-style building to meet with Chief Ranger Thane Weigand. He had kindly granted me interview time to discuss the events of the previous Sunday, involving a confrontation between Coronado Memorial Ranger Deborah Girard and Tombstone’s Chris Simcox, owner of the Tombstone Tumbleweed newspaper, and organizer of the Civil Homeland Defense Corps. The Mission of the Civil Homeland Defense Corps, headquartered in Tombstone, Arizona, is to deter, by legal means, illegal aliens, drug traffickers and terrorists from entering the United States by physical presence along the immediate U.S.-Mexican border. (Quoted directly from the CHD’s mission statement appearing on their website.)
Simcox has experienced national media attention in the last three months, based upon his stand against illegal border-crossers and his call for closing the U.S. borders to protect national security.
I had spoken to Chief Ranger Weigand on the phone Monday to set up the interview for the following day, and asked if Ranger Deborah Girard would be available for comment, and he stated that it was her day off. Based upon her report, he would be happy to fill me in on what had transpired on Sunday, January 26, 2003.
We began at the beginning.
It was about 2:30 p.m, and Deborah was out in the field, monitoring the area which he described as the Montezuma Ranch, around the south-east boundry. There she encountered three individuals, two of whom had opened a gate and entered the Park on foot.
The third person had stayed behind, sitting in a vehicle outside the gate. She “made contact” with the two persons, one of whom began running away. She ran after him, asking him to stop. She called to him three times to stop, and finally he complied. She asked him to identify himself, and he stated his name as Chris Simcox. She inquired if he was armed with any weapons, and he responded in the negative. Chief Ranger Weigand then explained that Deborah had noticed a bulge on the right side of Simcox’s hip. She searched him, and found a loaded .45 pistol on Simcox’s person, and at that point decided that these individuals “were going to be detained.”
I asked Chief Ranger Weigand how long the two individuals were detained (the person outside the gate was presumably not involved in the incident), and he answered, “Approximately three hours.” He further explained this duration of time as being devoted to “waiting for back-up, writing citations, itemizing confiscated items (including 2 two-way radios, a scanner, a cell phone, a camera, and a pistol), other paperwork, and transporting suspects to the Park compound. I inquired about the motives of Simcox and of the other suspect, Bill Dore, who lives in Douglas; the Chief Ranger responded immediately. “They had papers on them—‘plans of operation’ for the Civil Homeland Defense, a mission statement for the Civil Homeland Defense with letterheads.” These papers, combined with the location at which they were encountered, and the “tools” which they were carrying (i.e., cell phone, two-way radios, etc.), are, he stated, “evidence that they were conducting a manhunt on Federal lands” without a permit. “What kind of permit is required?” I asked him.
He informed me that this type of permit encompassed a number of possible uses, among them being the apprehension of illegals, the monitoring of visitor use activity, and scientific research. He added that Mr. Simcox and his group would need to have a permit to conduct Civil Homeland Defense activities on Coronado Memorial lands. Thus, Chris Simcox and Bill Dore were issued citations by Officer #1010, Ranger Deborah Girard, for failing to obtain permits(36 CFR 1.6). Bill Dore had a portable radio but was not armed.
Simcox was given two additional citations, one for carrying a loaded weapon on Park lands (36 CFR 2.4 a ), and the other for interfering with law enforcement function (36 CFR 2.32 a3). When asked to clarify specifically this last entry, Chief Ranger Weigand explained that Simcox interfered with law enforcement function first by “running away” from Ranger Girard, and second, because Simcox lied to her about possessing a gun . These are misdemeanor charges, he further explained, carrying a maximum penalty of a $2,000 fine and a 1-year prison term. Court appearance is mandatory before a U.S. magistrate. “These are federal laws,” he said. “All national parks have the same codes.”
My next question was about signage—were there signs posted in the area where the suspects entered? “Oh, yes,” the Chief Ranger replied. “As a matter of fact…” he stood up to retrieve a sample sign from the top of a nearby shelf. “These signs are posted every few feet along the fence line.” The sign he showed me was a green and white metal rectangle about 12 inches by 6 inches, with a message announcing the boundary of Park lands.
I inquired about how the Park is dealing with illegal intruders from across the border, to which Chief Ranger Weigand replied, “We deal with the illegals on a daily basis. We detain them, and call the Border Patrol. Our goal is to protect the resource. Illegals impact the resource by creating social trails, by littering, and by polluting waterways with excrement.”
I traveled back to Tombstone, the Town Too Tough To Die, for an interview with Chris Simcox. The meeting revealed another window on the situation. Chris was at his desk writing checks as I settled into a chair with my notebook and pen.
We began at the beginning.
It was Sunday, January 26th, 2003, Super Bowl Sunday. Chris informed me that he had gone out on patrol with the Civil Homeland Defense group on Saturday, the 25th. He wanted to go out again on Sunday, but had little luck finding anyone to go with him—they were all at home watching the Super Bowl. However, Bill Dore, a retired computer engineer and citizen volunteer who lives in Douglas, agreed to join Chris on Sunday, not to patrol but to “hike and explore the area.”
Driving down a border road near Coronado Monument, Simcox and Dore met Henry Harvey, former Tombstone resident, also retired, and a member of the American Border Patrol, another citizens’ group which monitors illegal activity along the U.S-Mexico line. A few minutes later, a Border Patrol van passed by, and the officer waved, then stopped to talk with the other three men. Simcox told Harvey and the Border Patrol officer that he and Dore were planning to hike up past the gate, as there was a trail that he had observed on Saturday, and he wanted to see where it went.
I asked Chris if he had seen any signs posted on the gate or on the fencing, and he replied, “Yes, there was a sign on the gate reading ‘No Vehicles Beyond This Point.’”
“Were there any other signs around the area?” I asked.
“No. The only sign was the ‘No Vehicles’ sign on the gate,” he repeated.
Simcox and Dore then entered through the gate, leaving their vehicle parked on the road. Simcox related that they walked about twenty paces into the gated area when he (Simcox) realized that he had forgotten to bring his walking stick. Thinking it might come in handy on a steep trail, Simcox began jogging back toward the gate to retrieve the stick from the parked vehicle. It was then he was stopped short by a female voice.
“Stop right there and drop your backpack. We both know what’s in it.” The voice continued.
“We both know what you’re doing. Stop. Freeze.”
Simcox expressed being startled by the voice, then by the appearance of a woman in a green uniform walking out of the shrubbery. Here, I asked him point blank, “Did you RUN?”
“What?” Simcox was baffled.
“Did you run away…after the ranger spoke to you?”
“No way! Of course I did not run.”
Henry Harvey, who was still in the area, walked up to the fence and began taking photographs. The ranger demanded that he stop taking pictures, and ordered him to open the gate and come into the area to submit to a search along with Simcox and Dore. Harvey declined the order.
Simcox added that he had to assume that the woman was a ranger because of her uniform; at no time did she state that she was a ranger. As she began searching the backpacks, Simcox related that he began to get annoyed, and told the ranger, “You have no probable cause to search. We are here on a hike.”
According to Simcox, the ranger replied, “I know who you are and why you’re here. You’re part of American Border Patrol.”
Simcox and Dore then offered her their I.D.’s
“You are lying to me,” she insisted. “You are part of American Border Patrol.”
“I feel as though we are being harassed,” Simcox told her.
The ranger asked Simcox if he was part of a group, to which he replied, “Yes. The Civil Homeland Defense Corps. But we are here as citizens, enjoying a hike. It’s Super Bowl Sunday, and we are not patrolling today.”
“Are there any weapons in your backpack?” the ranger wanted to know.
“No.” Simcox said.
“I have been watching you, and you have no right to be in this area,” she continued.
“We are not doing anything wrong,” Simcox answered.
“I know you are hunting immigrants,” she stated. “I was watching you yesterday.”
“I was out yesterday, looking through binoculars, patrolling the area, as the President of the United States has encouraged us to do…” Simcox retorted.
The park ranger, according to Simcox, replied, “I am of Hispanic descent. I do not approve of what you are doing.”
Simcox told me his story, complete with dialogue, as he turned pages of a small note pad on which he had scrawled notes to himself about what took place during this particular Sunday afternoon. My pen could barely keep up as he verbalized quote after quote.
The ranger asked Simcox if he had any weapons in the case on his belt containing his sunglasses. Again, he replied, “No.”
It was then the ranger pulled Simcox’s shirt up to reveal a .45 pistol.
“You are under arrest,” the ranger said. Then, reconsidering, she said, “No, not arrest. You will be detained. I am confiscating your equipment for conducting military operations on Park land.”
According to Simcox, he and Dore were instructed by the ranger to walk a distance of about a mile to where her truck was parked, and ordered to sit down on the ground. Within 10 minutes the Border Patrol arrived, with lights flashing, and soon after that two more Park rangers pulled up, also with lights flashing. Simcox believes it was about a 45 minute period during which Border Patrol officers and Park rangers, totalling seven officials and seven vehicles, talked among themselves while Dore and Simcox remained sitting on the ground. Simcox said they were never offered water and never read their Miranda Rights. Then Ranger Rene Gonzales approached, and told the men they would be thoroughly searched.
Simcox told me about what he termed “a criminal search”—he and Dore were made to empty all their pockets, remove their belts, and open their backpacks, after which the two were cited, then transported for further questioning. Simcox showed me the three violation notices he had received: the first for no permits, the second for carrying a loaded weapon on park lands, and the third for disorderly conduct and providing false information. He confirmed items which were confiscated for evidence to be: a cell phone, 2 two-way radios, a scanner, a camera, and a .45 pistol. Some papers which were in his backpack were also kept for evidence: a folder containing Border Patrol contact phone numbers (Naco and Douglas), plus a blank Civil Homeland Defense report form left over from the Saturday patrol. He commented that Ranger Gonzales, who was new to the area, had reportedly worked cooperatively with the American Border Patrol to recently detain eight illegals.
Ranger Girard and Ranger Gonzales drove Simcox and Dore back to their vehicle, which was still parked on the road by the gate where the incident began. Park ranger Deborah Girard asked if they would mind if she searched the vehicle. “Go right ahead,” replied Simcox. Ranger Girard then asked if they had any “long arms” in the vehicle. The two rangers began searching the vehicle for more weapons, and, as Simcox attests, Ranger Girard commented, “We want to make sure you won’t blow us away as we drive off.”
next order of business was to call Bill Dore in Douglas to see what his take
was on Super Bowl Sunday. Bill is man
in his sixties, a retired computer hardware engineer and concerned citizen on
border issues. In a fifteen minute
telephone interview, Bill recalled the events of that afternoon.
My next order of business was to call Bill Dore in Douglas to see what his take was on Super Bowl Sunday. Bill is man in his sixties, a retired computer hardware engineer and concerned citizen on border issues. In a fifteen minute telephone interview, Bill recalled the events of that afternoon.
“We were out on Sunday, not to patrol, but just exploring,” he explained.
He told of how he and Simcox drove down the border road and met a friend, Henry Harvey, who is associated with the American Border Patrol group, and talked with a Border Patrol officer, also a friend, telling him of their plans to hike up the mountain and find a trail.
The officer said they could go through “the cowboy gate” on foot, but that no vehicles are allowed up there.
Dore reported that he and Simcox opened the cowboy gate and went through on foot, leaving Simcox’s van parked by the road. Henry Harvey stayed outside the gate. After taking about twenty or thirty steps, stated Dore, Chris decided he wanted to go back to the van and get his walking stick, so he started back, then they both heard a voice. There were shrubs and high grass around, and they couldn’t see anyone. The voice said something like “What are you doing?” Dore heard Chris reply, “We’re hiking…”
Then the voice said, “No, I know what you’re up to…”
Bill Dore told of seeing the woman in green emerge from the grass, and of hearing her comments such as, “I am Hispanic, and I know you are against immigration.”
When questioned, Dore stated that Simcox did not run from the ranger. He chuckled, and added, “Any one who knows Chris” would know he didn’t run.
The woman asked Chris if he had a gun in his backpack, and he replied that he did not.
She discovered Chris’ .45 pistol in his belt, and immediately unholstered her gun and pointed it at Chris.
Dore stated that he and Chris were ordered to the ground on their hands and knees. The woman then took the gun from Chris and asked Dore if he had a weapon as well. He answered that he did not.
He further stated that this woman had Chris’ gun in her right hand, aimed at Dore, and Dore asked her to please not wave it around and please aim it in another direction. She reportedly then put the gun on the ground and put her foot on it.
Dore recalled being ordered to walk about a mile north to Deborah Girard’s truck, where he and Chris sat on the ground while calls were made and other rangers and Border Patrol officers arrived. He said they both sat for a very long time while rangers and officers talked the situation over, then told them they would be searched.
“We were put up against a vehicle and searched. They took the radios, a camera, loose items, keys, change in our pockets. We took our belts off and were physically searched.”
Simcox and Dore were transported to the ranger station, were they talked with Ranger Gonzales, who was new to the area. Chris was talking to him and to others, trying to explain the intentions of the Civil Homeland Defense. Dore was issued a citation for not having a permit. According to Dore’s understanding, Ranger Girard mentioned the possibility of more citations, remarking, “This is being investigated.”
As Dore and Simcox were taken back to the van, Ranger Girard asked to inspect the contents of the vehicle, and Chris complied. Dore feels strongly that this situation could have been handled more effectively had Ranger Girard maintained a more professional standard. “What struck me was the bias,” Dore said. “Her remark, ‘I am of Hispanic heritage.’ This, from a government official?”
My final interview, was with Henry Harvey. He agreed to speak about Sunday, the 26th, in a phone interview. Henry is a retired city clerk who used to live in Tombstone. As a member of the American Border Patrol, Mr. Harvey works to assist other groups such as the Civil Homeland Defense Corps in a common effort to enhance security along our southern borders.
Henry Harvey said that he met Chris Simcox and William Dore on the border road that afternoon. Simcox and Dore were headed up the hill to find and hike a trail Simcox had seen the previous day.
I asked him about the signs. Were any signs posted giving information about the demarcation into Park lands?
“No,” he declared. “There were no signs except for one on the fence, ‘No Vehicles Beyond This Point.’”
Harvey said he observed Chris and Bill go through the gate on foot, walking 20 to 30 feet inside the fence when they were confronted by the park ranger, who, in the course of approaching the two men, said something like, “You two, put your packs on the ground. We both know what you’ve got in there.”
Harvey watched as the ranger emerged. He said that she must have been “staked-out up the road.” She made her approach “walking fast” toward Simcox and Dore.
He stated that he watched Simcox and Dore pull out their I.D.’s to show the ranger upon her request. According to Harvey, Chris was also very clear about identifying himself as a Civil Homeland Defense Corps member.
Harvey remembered hearing her ask Chris, “Do you have a gun in there?” She was pointing at Chris’ backpack. Chris answered, “No.” She asked Chris about a gun in the pack on his hip, and Chris again answered, “No.”
Harvey also heard the ranger use the word “arrest” as she confronted the two men.
At one point, Harvey stated, the ranger “looked over at me
(on the other side of the fence) and tried to entice me to come into the area.”
He further stated that he witnessed and did not like her comment to the effect
that “ I’m Hispanic, and I don’t like what
you’re doing.” Henry Harvey stated that the park ranger’s attitude “was
belligerent,” adding, “She seemed to be out of control.” After Simcox and Dore
had been apprehended, Harvey listened
to the officers’ chatter coming over his scanner. One transmission, which was
repeated several times and which is stuck indelibly in Harvey’s mind, was,
“There are two suspects in custody, possibly members of the American Border
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