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January 19, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

No the Minutemen
Fight Arizona's anti-immigrant Prop 300

No the Minutemen
By Orlando Sepúlveda

REPUBLICAN POLITICIANS and far-right groups staged a series of political events January 13 to express their support for two Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting Mexican national Osbaldo Aldrete-Dávila as he fled on February 17, 2006, near Fabens, Texas.

The action began with a Capitol Hill press conference January 10, when Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California called on President Bush to keep "our heroes" out of jail. Accompanied by Reps. Duncan Hunter (Calif.), Ted Poe (Texas), Walter Jones (N.C.), Joe Wilson (S.C.) and Tom Tancredo (Colo.), Rohrabacher vowed to "find out whose side you're on...the American people or the side of our enemies."

The Minuteman Project and affiliated organizations followed up with Free the Border Patrol rallies in various cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix in support of agents Ignacio Ramos and José Alonso Compean, both due to report to jail on January 17 to serve sentences of 11 and 12 years, respectively.

The Minutemen protests came just one day after a Border Patrol agent shot and killed an undocumented immigrant, Javier Domínguez Rivera, in Cochise County, Ariz.

Aldrete-Dávila's case has become an easy mark for the far right because his truck carried more than 700 pounds of marijuana. But according to U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, neither agent knew the truck contained the drugs. In fact, the Office of the Inspector General of the Homeland Security Department acknowledged that the Border Patrol agents "were out to shoot Mexicans."

U.S. Attorney Sutton stated that "the defendants were prosecuted because they had fired their weapons at a man who had attempted to surrender by holding his open hands in the air, at which time Agent Compean attempted to hit the man with the butt of Compean's shotgun, causing the man to run in fear."

In a press conference Sutton declared "being a United States Border Patrol agent is not a license to shoot people. It is especially not a license to shoot unarmed...suspects who are running away from you...It is not a license to write a report and turn it in which leaves out the fact that you shot an unarmed suspect who was running away from you."

The Minutemen are using the fact that Ramos and Compean are both of Mexican descent to try to hide their racism. But at their Chicago rally, a Minutemen placard made fun of Aldrete-Dávila's wound in his gluteus and expressed regret that he hadn't been shot in the head.

The anti-immigrants "suggested" to Latino counter-demonstrators that they go bus their tables. Answering taunts about where had they left their hoods--a reference to the Ku Klux Klan--the racists responded, "We don't need them...yet."

-- At Los Angeles' Federal Building, 40 immigrant rights activists confronted 125 on the other side. A pro-immigrant activist using a bullhorn was arrested when a police officer decided to enforce an anti-noise ordinance while ignoring the use of bullhorns by the Minutemen.

-- In Chicago, 40 immigrant rights activists confronted 50 bigots--where in the past, counterprotesters have outnumbered the racists by 10-1. Activists concluded that the fact that the bigots didn't come to an immigrant neighborhood or to a Mexican Consulate diminished the sense of urgency. Also, part of the movement, particularly in Chicago, seems to be prioritizing political lobbying.

Nonetheless, the activists vowed to keep organizing and building rapid response networks to defend immigrants in case of similar events organized by racists as well as immigration raids and deportations.

For information about this rapid response network, send an email to [email protected]. Sarah Knopp contributed to this report.

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Fight Arizona's anti-immigrant Prop 300
By Jeff Bale

PHOENIX--Every January, tens of thousands of college football fans flock here for a frenzy of bowl games. This year, they were greeted by hundreds of college students and their supporters, chanting "We are students, not criminals!"

They were protesting a new statewide anti-immigrant measure passed in the elections last November. The measure, Proposition 300, would deny undocumented immigrant students the ability to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities, even if they are longtime residents of the state.

At major schools like Arizona State University (ASU), this draconian measure translates into a prohibitive jump in tuition--from around $5,000 per year for full-time undergraduates to almost $18,000. This will force any number of students to drop out of school.

"Our parents can't afford $18,000 a year," Ari, an 18-year-old freshman at ASU, told reporters. "I would have to drop out."

Miguel, a junior at ASU and a U.S. citizen who served four years in the Navy, also marched in protest of the measure. "I'm here because this does not just affect the undocumented, it affects the entire community," he said.

The tragic irony of Prop 300 is that it targets some of the state's neediest students who, despite the odds, have achieved success in Arizona's criminally underfunded school system. Many of the students affected by Prop 300 came to Arizona as young children and have earned the grades that have allowed them to continue their education.

The protesters also expressed support for the DREAM act, a bill before Congress that would make it easier for undocumented students with high-school diplomas to attain legal status more easily.

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