Border Watch Groups and Militias Disband and Disperse From Busts and Infighting

After years of emotional demonstrations, rallies, and interviews, the prominence of border watch groups and the nativist militias has diminished as a political force and now is fighting accusations of overt racism and anti-Semitism.

Tim Stellar wrote that the border watch groups and militias have gone from prominent demonstrations, border patrols, and Tea Party activism, to become virtually invisible in this year’s political season.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports a sharp decline from border activists, and an increase in Tea Party organizations that appear less militant, and more active in politics and candidates. According to Mr. Stellar:

…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 said.

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 away.

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…

Following several stories that refer to the alleged racism and anti-Semitism of Glenn Spencer, his history and associates, Mr. Spencer has threatened legal action against Luis Heredia, Executive Director of the Arizona Democratic Party. John Munger, an experienced Republican political operative is representing Mr. Spencer and has written a letter announcing legal action.

Glenn Spencer has been listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center website as an anti-immmigrant, “vitriolic Mexican-basher and self-appointed guardian of the border who may have done more than anyone to spread the myth of a secret Mexican conspiracy to reconquer the Southwest (an effort supposedly known as “la reconquista”). He is the president and founder of American Border Patrol and is best known for his effort to establish a “shadow Border Patrol” by using citizen patrols and various sensors and surveillance equipment to track the movement of migrants crossing the Mexico-Arizona border...”

Earlier in March, the Phoenix New Times printed this story entitled:

Glenn Spencer, Nativist Anti-Semite, Lectures State Senate Border Security Committee

The Phoenix Times logged the history of Spencer’s relationship with radical border activist Shawna Forde, now sentenced to death for murdering a father and his daughter during a home invasion robbery during the height of the Tea Party and Arizona militia’s border demonstrations and vigilante styled patrols. According to Stephen Lemon:

…Spencer was linked to minutewoman Shawna Forde, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2011 for her part in the murders of 9 year-old Brisenia Flores and her father Raul during a botched 2009 home invasion robbery at the Flores home in Arivaca.

Forde had lived on Spencer’s property near the border, and she visited Spencer’s home as she was being pursued by law enforcement. Spencer allowed her to use her laptop at his abode. She was arrested by the FBI shortly after leaving his property.

Spencer’s been vocal in his dislike of both Mexicans and Jews. In a 2001 statement on his American Patrol website, he wrote the following, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center:

“Our country is being invaded by Mexico with hostile intentions. When it blows up, they can’t say we didn’t tell them, when the blood starts flowing on the border and in L.A.”

His anti-Semitism is also well-documented. In a Jew-bashing screed still on his website entitled “Speaking the Unspeakable: Is Jew-Controlled Hollywood Brainwashing Americans?” he discusses how Jews supposedly control the entertainment industry and marks how too many of them, in his opinion, support illegal immigration.

Spencer opines:

“I have many Jewish friends and they have been extremely instrumental in fighting illegal immigration. I fear, however, that this small handful of patriotic Americans are far outnumbered by liberal Jews who now have total control over our media. With my memories of the Hollywood elite, I think it is now time that Americans be forewarned that they are probably subject to clever pro-illegal alien propaganda every time they watch something produced in Hollywood.”…

On February 22, Luis Heredia issued this press release:

“It is appalling that the Tea Party leadership of the Arizona Legislature found it appropriate to call an avowed anti-Semite and purported racist to testify before the Senate this morning. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Spencer, the leader of a vigilante militia known as the ‘American Border Patrol,’ is the author of articles such as ‘Is Jew-Controlled Hollywood Brainwashing America?’ who once opined that ‘patriotic Americans are far outnumbered by liberal Jews who now have total control over our media.’ It is a disgrace that the Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars and sullying the name of Arizona with this charade.”

“Perhaps most disappointing of all is Attorney General Tom Horne, who made a presentation to the committee just before Spencer but said nothing as Democratic senators protested. The fact that the chief law enforcement officer of this state would say nothing about a hearing that sought to legitimize a notorious militia leader is a shocking dereliction of duty. It’s vintage Tom Horne: advocate for public safety until it gets in the way of your radical ideology, and at that point, look the other way.”

“It’s no surprise that even conservatives now disapprove of the extremist Tea Party Legislature. Sylvia Allen and the Republicans owe all Arizonans an apology for wasting taxpayer resources on promoting such a divisive figure.”

Without bothering to research  the rich history of Glenn Spencer’s alleged anti-Semitic and racist rants and associations, John Munger, representing the border activist, wrote a legal letter to Luis Heredia, threatening legal actions and demanding a retraction of Mr. Heredia’s press release. Mr. Munger does not like references to anti-Semitism and the characterization that the American Border Patrol is a ‘vigilante militia.’  According to Mr. Munger, ‘vigilante’ is a pejorative term and that the American Border Patrol has no weapons and conducts no paramilitary activities.

 Dear Mr. Heredia:

This office represents Mr. Glenn Spencer who resides in Cochise County, Arizona. It has come to our attention that, on behalf of the Arizona Democratic Party, you have published, statewide, certain defamatory statements about Mr. Spencer. On March l, 2012, you were quoted in several publications as stating that Mr. Spencer is “an avowed anti-Semite and purported racist.” You have also stated that he is the leader of a “vigilante militia known as the American Border Patrol.” These statements are false and defamatory. As for the allegation that Mr. Spencer is a “avowed anti-Semite and purported racist” your sole evidence of that position is apparently reference to an article Mr. Spencer published which you cite. Any fair reading of that piece however, makes it clear that Mr. Spe11cer’s comments were not anti~Semite but were anti-liberal. Mr. Spencer pointed out in that article that “I have many Jewish friends and they have been extremely instrumental in fighting illegal immigration.” Mr.

Spencer points you to the fact that, in that article, he did not cite problems with Jewish people, per se, but cited problems with liberals who happen to be Jewish. Specifically he referred to an article called “How Jewish is Hollywood?” that was published in the Los Angeles Times and written by a Joel Stein on December 19, 2008. Mr. Stein made the point that he believes Hollywood is controlled by members of the Jewish community. I do not know whether that is a true statement or not. But I do know that Mr. Stein alleged that as a fact, a11d that Mr. Spencer’s comments were in response to Mr. Stein’s allegations that that fact was true. From the basic point made by Mr. Stein, Mr. Spencer simply elaborated that that community controlling Hollywood was also, based upon his personal experience, very liberal and in some cases so far to the left that they were politically prejudiced and operated contrary to a fair perception of American interests, especially in the area of illegal immigration. Thus it was Mr. Stein, not Mr. Spencer, who made the allegations of control of the Jewish community in Hollywood. Mr. Spencer’s only contribution was that this group was, from his personal knowledge, often (but not always) an extremist group of very liberal people.

Mr. Spencer is adamant that there is simply nothing in what Mr. Spencer said that indicates in any manner whatsoever that he is an anti~Semite. Instead, the article simply recited that he is anti-liberal. Your statements to the contrary are untrue and defamatory and must be rescinded immediately.

Moreover, and in any case, Mr. Spencer is not an anti-Semite and statements to the contrary are false and defamatory even if there were a dispute over the meaning of a particular article he wrote. Mr. Spencer, in fact, has close friends, as well as family, who are Jewish and whom he loves and admires. Statements that he is an anti~Semite are directly contradicted by these clear facts, and are defamatory.

Further, your comment that the American Border Patrol is “a vigilante militia” is also untrue and defamatory. There is no basis in fact for that allegation whatsoever. The term “vigilante” is a purposeful pejorative and misrepresentation of the activities and interests of the American Border Patrol organization and therefore a purposeful misrepresentation of Mr. Spencer’s interests and activities. That organization does not attempt to operate in any manner to enforce the law outside law enforcement authorities, as a vigilante group would do. Moreover, in no sense is it a militia — it has no weapons, and conducts no paramilitary activities. In particular, Mr. Spencer and his organization have often spoken out against vigilante and militia groups, including The Minutemen and its leader, Chris Simcox. Mr. Spencer has decried the use of force at the border or enforcement of the law other than by law enforcement agencies. See /03 0320-ABP-REJECT-MILITIA~IDEA/030320gFeature.html. Thus, your statements that he is a member of or supports, vigilante militia groups are untrue and defamatory and must be rescinded by you.

Mr. Spencer understands that you do not agree with him on his position on the issues of the day. That does not give you a right, however, to defame him with untrue statements that he is an anti-Semite or that he is a member of a vigilante militia.

Mr. Spencer demands that you retract those statements formally and publicly by issuing a letter of retraction to us as well as to the press generally in Arizona. Mr. Spencer reserves all rights to take further action against you if the comments are not immediately retracted both personally, publicly, and in a manner acceptable to him. In that event we intend to put you to your proof that he is what you have alleged, and we will seek damages on your failure to do so.

Please provide us your response Within ten (10) days.

Very truly yours,

John F. Munger


Tim Stellar and the Arizona Daily Star relays these comments regarding this legal action:

He goes on to criticize Heredia’s claim that Spencer is a “notorious militia leader.” The Star has reported on Spencer’s activities through the years, and indeed they have focused largely on using technology to show apparent insecurity along the Mexican border, not armed patrolling of the border.

In any case, Heredia told the Phoenix New Times he is declining the invitation to retract his statements.

“I stand by my statement as it was released,” Heredia told me today. “The number one thing is, why is the Tea Party Senate inviting a person like Glenn Spencer. He does not deserve the attention he was receiving.”

Update: This afternoon, Munger called me back and said Spencer is being unfairly maligned as racist in a way that is too common these days.

“It’s got to the point where anybody who disagrees with anybody else is called a racist,” Munger said. “It just needs to stop.”

“You can have a view that you want to control the border. That doesn’t make you racist.”

Of course, the accusations of racism against Spencer aren’t as simple as that. Refer to the SPLC bio or New Times story above, along with the American Patrol website, for more details and to make up your own mind.

Glenn Spencer has hunted humans for over a decade, and he has a company dedicated to tracking and hunting humans: Border Technology, Inc.