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Somerton condemns vigilantes

Sep 17, 2003

SOMERTON - By a unanimous vote, Somerton council members passed a resolution on Tuesday that explicitly condemns any "vigilante" groups and states it is the job of the U.S. Border Patrol to secure the border.

With that, Somerton became the first city in Yuma County to officially address the issue of citizens patrolling the county's border with Mexico.

"We want everyone to know where we stand on this," Tumbaga said.

The resolution is a direct response to a promise made by Chris Simcox, president of the Civil Homeland Defense, to train a local citizens' patrol group.

His group of citizens has patrolled the Cochise County border with Mexico for the past year, turning over more than 1,600 illegal immigrants to Tucson sector Border Patrol agents, Simcox has said.

Tumbaga said it is important for Yuma County elected officials to go on the record with their feelings on any citizens' patrols, which is why the cities of Yuma and San Luis will soon be asked to approve a resolution similar to that approved by Somerton.

During Tuesday's meeting, several council members spoke out against any patrol group.

Francisco Vasquez said it was important to remember that passing the resolution doesn't mean Somerton officials are saying they are in favor of illegal immigration. It just means they feel the Border Patrol should be allowed to do its job, he said.

Vasquez also said his concern with the patrol groups is that legal citizens will be afraid to continue using the Colorado River - which makes up the entire Yuma County border with Baja California - for recreation.

Vazquez said he enjoys fishing on the river and worries that his accent and brown skin will make him a target of the patrol group.

"The last thing I would want to see is me being harassed by vigilantes who are taking the law into their own hands," Vasquez said.

Those kind of concerns on the part of residents is why Tumbaga said he chose to include lines in the resolution that state "many citizens in Yuma County, Arizona, may be discriminated against solely due to the color of their skin" and that"vigilantes groups patrolling our borders are a threat to the safety and well-being of all citizens in Yuma County."

Tumbaga and Vasquez have both attended meetings held in south Yuma County that local citizens have organized against Simcox and any patrol group created in the county.

Representatives of that group of citizens will be in front of the Yuma County Courthouse today at 4:30 p.m. for a press conference where they will explain further their concerns about the patrol groups.