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Arizona Vigilante Declared Guilty on All Charges

February 15, 2011 ·

Justice is served as a border vigilante faces sentencing next week, but factors that gave rise to anti-immigrant hysteria remain.

Via Colorlines:

This afternoon a Pima County, Arizona, jury found Minuteman border vigilante Shawna Forde guilty on two counts of first-degree murder for killing nine-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father Raul Flores Jr. in May 2009, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

Forde was also convicted of attempted first-degree murder for shooting Brisenia’s mother Gina Gonzalez, along with other aggravated assault and robbery charges.

When the judicial procedures following the murder of a 9-year-old and her father conclude in the sentencing of those responsible, it’s a sign that, at least in its corrective functions, the law has done its job. But in the larger scheme of things, the factors that gave rise to the monstrous Minuteman movement that claimed the lives of Brisenia and Raul Flores continue unchecked, and seem likely to stay that way for a long time.

Forde’s activism thrived in an era when Americans have become more alarmed about immigrants. In 2010, on average, American respondents believed that 39 percent of the population was born abroad, according to a Transatlantic Trends poll. The real number is about 14 percent. In Congress, the Democratic strategy to appease the anti-immigrant voices by engaging on their level of finger-waving discourse has lefts us farther away from immigration reform than before Obama took office. The DREAM Act is dead, and any version that could clear the GOP-dominated House would over-emphasize the enforcement that people like Forde want.

Latino voices and experiences continue to be shut out. The mass media did not cover this trial for months, and then only on the surface. In its own lethargic reaction, the FBI knew in advance that Forde’s group was planning to break in to houses where they suspected they could steal from drug cartels. Their surveillance and intelligence was useless in preventing this loss of life.

Shawna Forde, the gun-happy, conspiracy-minded member of the Minuteman American Defense, seemed to enjoy the attention she got by border-watching in this 2008 video dug up by Crooks and Liars: “When the sun goes down, all bets are off,” says a smiling Forde to a Norwegian TV crew that traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border. “I have my gun, and you’ll be very sorry that you did not have one.” Forde will be sentenced next week, and her two associates will go to jury trial later this year.

Our prayers remain with Brisenia’s family and the people in Arizona working everyday to bring this human rights crisis to an end.


Matias Ramos
Carol Jean and Edward F. Newman Fellow