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Vigilante patrol not needed, may add to danger

Herald/Review - 7/28/02

The U.S.-Mexico border is a sieve, and the people of Southern Arizona are fed up with the situation.

What is needed is an effective government policy that turns off the northward flow of thousands of illegal, would-be immigrants.

What is not needed are private citizens taking it upon themselves to patrol the border.

One California-led group's plans for a modern-day, high-tech vigilante posse are misguided and perilous. Any good the American Border Patrol could hope to do is eclipsed by the dangers it poses.

Voice of Citizens Together founder Glenn Spencer is leading the drive to establish the American Border Patrol in Cochise County. The California man says it will inform the American people of what is going on. We believe the American people already know we have trouble along the border.

Taking electronic images and soundings and then crafting an interpretive spin that fits a certain political bent, regardless of whether it's to the right or left, will do nothing to solve the problem.

We don't need scare tactics appealing to our primitive fears. We don't need rumors of foreign invasion -- economic or factual. We don't need people from California moving here to save us.

The people of Southern Arizona are actively involved already. Our ranchers and border residents already report signs of lawbreaking. Our border is already laced with high-tech surveillance equipment.

There is nothing the American Border Patrol can bring to the table that isn't already being done. On the contrary, the presence of this private, vigilante group can only exacerbate a difficult situation, needlessly risking lives and property.

With hundreds of trained U.S. Border Patrol agents along the boundary, a handful of civilians playing cops risks adding to the havoc that already exists.

Encountering an armed coyote or a group of drug smugglers, these civilians could easily find themselves in a firefight they are not trained to handle.

The American Border Patrol's Spencer needs to rethink his plan.

We all have a responsibility to watch our border and report problems. It is the same obligation we have in everyday life to obey the law and promote peace and safety in our community.

That does not mean driving up and down the street looking for misdeeds. That does not mean turning every citizen into a policeman. It does not mean our citizenry should head for the border wilderness, erect cameras and patrol the frontier.

During the last 12 months, more than a quarter of a million illegal immigrants have been captured trying to make the dangerous trek across the Sonoran desert from Mexico to the cities north of the border, many in hopes of finding jobs and sustenance for their families.

The solution is to pressure our government to act. If our leaders won't do their jobs, replace them. The solution is not to don the cloak of vigilantism by taking the law into our own hands. That isn't the American way.