War with Iraq may or may not come, but war of another kind is already here.
Earlier this month a plainspoken gentleman of Arizona named Chris Simcox announced that a citizens' group he founded—the Tombstone Militia—was about to undertake the function of protecting his state's and the country's borders from invasion.
In Arizona illegal immigrants continue to pour across the borders in numbers undiminished by or since Sept. 11, 2001. While the federal government has responded to the 9/11 attacks by conquering Afghanistan, threatening war against Iraq, creating a vast new agency to fight terrorism and unleashing the security and intelligence communities with enhanced powers, it has done almost nothing to control or reduce immigration.
That's why Mr. Simcox is going to war—or, more accurately, non-war. "It is a monumental disgrace," he told the Washington Times, "that our government is letting the American people down, turning us into the expendable casualties of the war on terrorism." Mr. Simcox was planning to deploy some 50 members of his 600-member private militia group to "protect their country" against illegal aliens, and while he was threatening to do no more than round up the illegals he caught and turn them over to the proper federal authorities, he also went out of his way to warn the government not to get in his way.
In recent years, the crisis caused by mass illegal immigration in Arizona has escalated. As the government actually did improve enforcement on some parts of the border, the improvement itself tended to drive aliens away from their usual crossing places and toward new ones.
In Arizona, that meant crossing onto private property, often burglarizing or destroying it, and leaving trails of garbage, excrement, and refuse behind. Ranchers found cattle and sheep slaughtered so aliens could munch a few handfuls of their flesh.
Complaints to Washington went unheard—except that any hint of civilian enforcement brought forth threats of federal crackdowns.
Indeed, that's exactly what's happened to Mr. Simcox. While Washington under neither the Clinton nor Bush administrations has done much to control the mass violation of our immigration laws and the safety of the citizens, it has jumped at the chance to crack down on Mr. Simcox and his "militia."
"Federal and state lawmakers," the Times reports, "have targeted Mr. Simcox for hearings to determine if he has violated any laws in forming the armed militia organization and posting its members on private land to stop illegal aliens, smugglers, and drug dealers."
Wouldn't it make just a bit more sense for the "federal and state lawmakers" to hold a few hearings about the known lawbreakers, the "illegal aliens, smugglers, and drug dealers" whom Mr. Simcox plans to stop?
One of the chief investigators, a gentleman named Raul Grijalva, who takes office next month as a U.S. congressman from Arizona, spouts that "Armed civilian groups on the border contribute to an already fragile situation, and their rhetoric is very dangerous to the overall security of the region." [Click here for Chris Simcox's reply to Congressman Elect Grijalva in PDF format.]
But of course if the situation is "already fragile," why doesn't the congressman-elect [send him mail] apply his talents to making it less fragile - by demanding that the government send troops to the border to control illegal immigration?
That in fact is precisely what Mr. Simcox wants the government to do.
Mr. Simcox issued a statement demanding that federal and state officials "uphold the oath of office they took to protect America" from foreign invasion, and he stated that while his militia members would carry legal handguns to protect themselves, they would carry no rifles. Their purpose is not to shoot down lawbreaking aliens on sight but to protect themselves and their rights.
What Mr. Simcox is doing is not only entirely defensible and probably entirely legal; it happens to be in the mainstream of popular and (small-R) republican government. If the government won't enforce the law, the citizens whom the law is supposed to protect and from whom the law ultimately derives must do it themselves.
How else does Mr. Grijalva and, for that matter, President Bush imagine that citizens will react?
The Bush administration prior to the 9/11 attacks was planning to push for an amnesty for illegal Mexican aliens; those plans went south after the attacks but are now creeping back into policy discussions.
What no one seems to have discussed or planned is to send U.S. troops to the border to do what the Border Patrol apparently cannot do and what Mr. Simcox and his private soldiers are trying to do.
If Mr. Grijalva and the other office-holders so eager to drag Mr. Simcox before their committees really want to help the "fragile situation" they're complaining about, they might try the simple expedient of enforcing the laws against the immigrants whom we know are already breaking them.
COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
December 30, 2002