By Curtis Prendergast
Hereford, Ariz.– Supporters of SB 1070 held a rally next to the border fence in Cochise County on Sunday to promote increased border security in southern Arizona.
The rally, which was attended by several hundred people, ran from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. It was the result of a month of planning by Nancy Huzar and her fellow organizers at United We Stand for Americans, who organized the rally with the Patriot Caucus and the Arizona Tea Party under the name United Border Coalition Tea Party.
The Web site for United We Stand for Americans reads:
“The United Border Coalition Tea Party Rally’s purpose is to show support for Arizona and its rights to enforce the ‘Immigration Laws’ that the Federal Government won’t. SB1070 is a common sense law that enables Arizona to enforce federal law on illegal immigration.”
The rally was held on the border because “when you do it in Tucson or Phoenix people don’t get a sense of what we are trying to do,” said Huzar.
She stressed the importance of knowing how many illegal immigrants are residing in the United States. “Until we have complete accuracy we don’t know where we stand,” said Huzar. She said that her objections to illegal immigration did not come from a racist perspective. “Race is such an overused word,” she said. “It’s used to divide the masses.” Instead, her objections come from a fiscal perspective. “It’s more the financial end of it,” she said.
She attributed large-scale immigration from Mexico to the United States to corruption in the Mexican government. “They really should be protesting Mexico.”
“How can you protest us when we’re taking care of you?” said Huzar.
The American Border Patrol
The rally was held on the land of Glenn Spencer, founder of the American Border Patrol. “Each one is an expression of an American who is concerned,” said Spencer of the several hundred people who attended the rally.
The American Border Patrol was founded after Spencer saw the success of the “Light up the Border” campaign of the early 1990s, in which people drove their cars to the border in San Diego and turned on their lights at 9 p.m. to catch people illegally crossing the border. The first outings involved only a few dozen cars. A year later, there were 1,500 cars, said Spencer. He attributed the construction of the border fence to the success of this campaign.
Spencer expanded the campaign to include taking photos of people crossing the border. Not far from the stage where the political candidates spoke to the crowd stood a pole with a camera on top of it. The camera is aimed at the border fence and posts photos of people crossing the border on the Internet.
His group also built a UAV, an unmanned aerial vehicle, to patrol the border. Spencer himself has flown hundreds of hours patrolling the border. The group was founded in June 2002, but has not become well-known because “the media won’t cover us,” said Spencer.
The Candidates address the crowd
More than a dozen conservative political candidates spoke to the crowd. Several of them wore pistols as they spoke. Among them were state Senator Russell Pearce, the author of SB 1070, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Mike Broomhead, the host of a local conservative radio talk show, emceed the event. He stressed the fact that Arizona is multicultural and that it wasn’t fair for Arizona to be portrayed as a “lily-white state of racists.”
As political candidates spoke to the crowd, a group of people gathered on the Mexican side of the border and watched the rally unfold. “The fence will keep these people over there!” said Terry Myers, who is running for U.S. Congress in Congressional District 7. Bill Montgomery, who is running for Maricopa County Attorney, led the crowd in a chant of “USA! USA! USA!” directed at the onlookers on the Mexican side of the fence.
At one point, three women, all mothers of soldiers serving overseas, took the stage with Broomhead. In addition to being “Marine Moms,” they were also legal immigrants from Guatemala, Mexico and Estonia.
“Raise your hand if you love America. Raise your other hand if you love Arizona. Does anybody else feel like this is a stickup?” asked Robert Wilson, who is running for U.S. Congress in Congressional District 7.
Jesse Hernandez, who is running for state Senator for District 17, took the stage near the end of the rally. He said his parents immigrated legally and he was born in Nogales, Ariz. “I’m tired of La Raza,” said Hernandez. “They call me coconut, that I’m brown on the outside but white on the inside.” He encouraged “closet conservative Latinos” who were afraid to speak up to do so.
With the exception of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, J.D. Hayworth, who is running for U.S. Senate, received the loudest applause of any of the speakers. “Enough is enough” was the main theme of his speech. “In so many ways it is High Noon,” said Hayworth, referring to the similarities between the situation on the border and the classic Western starring Gary Cooper.
Hayworth called President Obama’s recent allocation of $600 million for border security “too little, too late.” He also rejected the possibility of amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the United States. “We know that amnesty is wrong. We know that amnesty is expensive,” said Hayworth, who then pledged to “put an end to amnesty once and for all.”
Hayworth ended his speech with words in support of the proposed initiative to deny automatic citizenship to children born in the United States of illegal immigrants.
Reactions from the crowd
“I’m not against Mexicans. That’s not what it’s about at all,” said Karen Juarez, a music teacher at Columbus Elementary School in Columbus, New Mexico. “If they’re good guys then great. Let’s make a way for them to get in here,” said Juarez. This opinion is not shared by most people in her area, she said. “I’m in the minority down there.”
She speaks both English and Spanish, which helps her where “almost the whole school is Mexican.” She said that many students at her school live in Mexico. They walk across the border and are picked up by school buses that take them to school in Columbus.
“They need to secure the border,” said Kelly Bartram of Benson, Ariz. “This is about illegal immigration.” Bartram has not had any personal contact with illegal immigration, but illegal immigrants crossed his neighbor’s property a few years ago.
The crowd was not entirely pro-SB 1070. The opposition was represented by a few demonstrators who silently protested the presence of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Another member of the opposition was Zephyr Teachout, who works on Democrat Randy Parraz’s campaign for U.S. Senate.
“Immigration is the central issue of his campaign,” said Teachout.
“The economy is the root issue. These laws came out of the recession,” she said. “We need a sustainable economy so that a few key actors can’t destroy everything.”
“The conversation is happening at the wrong level,” she said.
Another Local Voice
Brad Finn owns the land down the road from Spencer’s ranch. As the rally ended he stood at the entrance to his long, dirt driveway to make sure there was no trouble from the demonstrators. He said that he had counted 400 cars driving down the road in front of his land to the rally that morning.
Finn recognized that his ranch was a strategic location in the immigration debate. “We’re on the frontlines,” he said.
Finn was not a fan of Spencer’s American Border Patrol, but said he appreciated the presence of the U.S. Border Patrol. “I love the real Border Patrol,” said Finn. “I sleep better because we have more boots on the ground.” He also was glad the fence was built near his property. “That’s the best fence in the West,” said Finn.
Although he did not appreciate the tactics of those attending the rally, he said he was in favor of increased border security. “I think we should seal this thing,” said Finn about the border. His opinion was more compromised than many of those at the rally. “We’ve always needed the Mexican labor, but how do you control them flooding over?” said Finn.
He also pointed out the difficulty in constructing a fence along the length of the border. “How you gonna build a fence here?” asked Finn as he pointed to the Huachuca Mountains that loom on the horizon behind his property.