On May 30, 2009, a terrorist attack in Arizona ended the lives of two U.S. citizens -- a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter. The attackers were Shawna Forde and Jason Eugene Bush, who founded a group called the Minuteman American Defense (MAD) -- a small anti-immigrant border watch group. On May 30, MAD raided the home of Raul Flores, killing him and his daughter. This week, Forde was found guilty by an Arizona jury of two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of burglary, armed robbery, and aggravated robbery. Her two accomplices, Jason Eugene Bush and Albert Gaxiola, will face trail later this year.
Forde and Bush founded MAD after Forde was dismissed from the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps for exhibiting "unstable" behavior. Forde had an extensive criminal record before she murdered Raul and Brisenia Flores. She even fabricated an account of how she was raped and shot by "Spanish-speaking" men. Clearly, the justice system failed Forde by not ordering her to undergo extensive mental evaluations and therapy.
Eugene Bush, who is linked with the Aryan Nation, is MAD's National Director of Operations. Another career criminal, Bush was charged in 2009 with the 1997 murder of a Latino man in Wenatchee, Washington. Bush was also jailed in 1997 for car theft. Detectives are now following other leads that could bring more murder charges against Bush. Again, why has he slipped through the cracks of our justice system? Is it perhaps because his victims were considered unimportant?
It's always a sad day in the United States when xenophobic individuals and groups act on their irrational ideologies. We've always been a nation of immigrants. To claim that any group -- with the exception of Native Americans -- is native to the United States is simply absurd. Rather than organizing to "secure" the border from individuals with different cultures, religions, values, skin color, and hair, these individuals would do well to read the history of our great nation. They would then learn the stories of struggle of the Irish, French, Polish, German, and Italian immigrants from which they descend.
But their hatred emanates from a powerful fear: rapidly changing U.S. demographics. The latest statistics show that Latinos/as will comprise nearly one-third of the U.S. population in 2050. This rapid U.S. Latino growth, coupled with the often exaggerated accounts of the violence-ridden border, has galvanized hate groups from all over the United States to act on their xenophobic sentiments. FBI statistics reveal that anti-Latino hate crimes have increased by nearly 35 percent since 2003. So rather than sending more troops to the border, shouldn't politicians address the violence and human rights violations endured daily by many Latinos? Shouldn't fixing our broken immigration system be a priority?
In my view, politicians who spew vitriolic anti-Latino rhetoric, support abhorrent anti-Latino legislation, or ignore the plight of the Hispanic community are also responsible. They're contributing to the repressive anti-Hispanic ethos prevailing in many states throughout our nation. We should hold our politicians accountable for their words or inaction. Enough is enough.
Now is the time for our nation -- its politicians, educators, voters -- to demonstrate the principles of justice and liberty for all -- the very principles on which our nation was founded. We must prevent domestic terrorist attacks. No longer can Latinos/as (of whatever status) feel unsafe in their homes, on the street, at school, or at their jobs. We Latinos face an uphill battle, but I know we can prevail by uniting in our common struggle against hatred and fear.
No memorials stand to remember the tragic deaths of Raul and Brisenia Flores and the many others who have perished or are permanently traumatized from hate crimes. But hopefully justice will prevail in this our land -- a land of immigrants and justice for all.
César J. Baldelomar a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, where he focuses on liberation theologies and ethics from the margins. You can visit César at his website www.cesarb.com