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Seven men held at gunpoint
The victims of the border vigilantes

By Jeff Bale | April 29, 2005 | Page 2

THE FRIGHTENING consequences of the anti-immigrant vigilantes' invasion of Arizona became clear earlier this month when a 24-year-old man was arrested for abducting seven Latino men.

Patrick Haab, an Army reservist and Iraq War veteran, was on his way to California to volunteer for another tour of duty in the military--this time in Afghanistan. But when U.S. Border Patrol and police showed up at a rest stop along Interstate 8 in southern Arizona, Haab had seven Latino men lying on the ground at gunpoint.

The incident came while hundreds of armed vigilantes--known in the Spanish-language press as the cazamigrantes, or immigrant hunters--were "patrolling" the border for undocumented immigrants. The right-wingers arrived at the beginning of the month, and their leaders have sworn that no violence or direct confrontation would occur.

While Haab wasn't part of the vigilante project, his actions are the logical outcome of it. Seeing seven Latino men, he assumed they were "illegal" and decided to arrest them.

Haab won't even be punished for this crime. Maricopa County officials decided not to press charges against him--because state law allows people to make "citizen's arrests" of suspected felons.

County prosecutor Andrew Thomas told reporters: "I do not want the message to go out that people can start rounding up illegal immigrants, whether or not they think they're here legally." But with 700-plus vigilantes on the border and a charged anti-immigrant climate in the state, that's exactly what will happen.

Politicians in Arizona and beyond are trying to exploit the anti-immigrant hysteria. For example, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger--who is facing growing anger and opposition to his right-wing agenda--last week demanded beefed-up enforcement against undocumented immigrants on the state's borders. "I think it is just unfair to have all those people coming across, have the borders open the way it is," Schwarzenegger said. He was forced to take back his comments the next day, claiming that he misspoke.

Meanwhile, Haab has become a hero to a burgeoning far-right anti-immigrant movement. An Arizona locksmith put up $10,000 to bail him out of jail, and he received numerous offers of money and room and board. A Web site was set up for his "defense committee"--oddly hosted by the K9 motorcycle company.

This is the racist logic behind vigilantes prowling the border and calls for "tougher" immigration policy. Fortunately, this time, no one was hurt. But the violent bigotry of the anti-immigrant fanatics is plain to see.

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