Tresspassers Will Be Prosecuted

Ranch Rescue's Jack Foote swears he just wants to mend fences. Is pseudomilitary secrecy, right-wing rhetoric and an armed vigilante militia the best way?

To help.

"A show of solidarity," Foote says, with "that brotherhood, if you will, of folks who make their living from the land."

If that means rebuilding fences, so be it. If it means repairing busted water lines, there you go. If it means serving, by mere presence, as a de facto deterrent to potential trespassers, that's gravy. And if it means helping a rancher detain a group of trespassing immigrants until the Border Patrol arrives, they'll be ready for that, too.

Bob Park (left) constructs these billboards, which Roger Barnett and others have on their land in Arizona.
Bob Park (left) constructs these billboards, which Roger Barnett and others have on their land in Arizona.
"They're not coming across the river to spite the United States."
Greg Houston
"They're not coming across the river to spite the United States."

If Ranch Rescue members choose, and if they are dues-paying, and if they sign affidavits as to the personal legality of doing so, they may carry weapons on missions.

Dues-paying members also get an embroidered mission patch to wear on their required khaki uniforms.

It is a carefully stated condition of the interview that Jack Foote will not reveal any information that might hinder the cause of his mission, or that might put his life, the health of his family, or the safety of Ranch Rescue volunteers at risk. Some people don't like what they're up to, he says. There have been threats.

On these grounds, for two months he does not provide names or contacts for a single Ranch Rescue member or volunteer. And he will not provide his own full legal name.

Jack Foote says that he functions as the sole identifiable public face of Ranch Rescue not by choice but by default. Because no one else would. Because he was "elected" by the other members.

If that's true, Ranch Rescue's silent co-founders voted well, because Jack Foote talks a pretty good game.

We utterly reject the concept of "rights of groups." The only rights that exist are the rights of individual private citizens, as granted to each of us by God and as guaranteed by the Constitution of these United States and by the constitutions of each of the respective sovereign states that comprise this great nation.

Wecompletely reject and oppose Socialism inall of its forms, for Socialism's central objective is the abolition of all private property rights for individual citizens.

Wecompletely reject and opposeall Environmentalist measures, proposals and agendas for the same reason. Private property first, foremost, and always. Everything else is not even a close second. -- Home page, www.ranchrescue.com, as of January 30

Granted: The border is out of any semblance of control. Hundreds of thousands of undocumented Mexican citizens cross the line every year, looking for work or avoiding it, temporarily or aiming for permanence, muling drugs or supporting families. Some drown. Some are apprehended by the Border Patrol and summarily bused back to Mexico. Some are busted for major crimes. Some live quietly next door and send their children to school with yours.

Ten years ago a majority of illegal immigrants entered the United States through the conduits formed by the larger border-town pairings -- San Diego/Tijuana, El Paso/Juarez, Brownsville/Matamoros, Del Rio/ Ciudad Acuna -- either landing a short ride home or disappearing into the crowds.

Since the mid-1990s, increased Border Patrol presence in urban areas has pushed migration routes into the hinterlands. This policy got more than a few results. Urban border dwellers feel less threatened, and their towns received a continuing infusion of the economic lifeblood that accrues to outposts of large federal agencies. Crossers are compelled to avoid towns in an otherwise sparsely populated, largely arid landscape wherein the basic survival of a hunted man on foot is a question as immediate and as fundamental as the source of his next drink of water.

Mojados have always succumbed to the Rio Grande. Now they as often succumb to mountain hypothermia and desert dehydration. An estimated 300 die yearly.

The increased risks of crossing have turned it from a mostly solo endeavor to one undertaken, for safety, in groups. Such clumping was part of the policy goal in the first place, large groups of Mexicans on open ground being easier to spot and catch than isolated Mexican citizens walking the streets of towns where most everyone's skin, legally or otherwise, is brown.

The clumping also introduced economics of scale to the business of human smuggling, which in turn has attracted the attention of those already best set up to smuggle illegal cargo from Mexico into the United States. These tend, not surprisingly, to be importers of marijuana and cocaine, thus expanding the U.S. operations of organized crime, and squaring its practitioners dead center between illegal immigrants and U.S. law enforcement, placing all parties at increased risk in the process.

For all the things that contemporary border policy and enforcement have accomplished, there is one that it glaringly has not. It has not made much net difference in the numbers of Mexican citizens who illegally cross the border into the United States.

It has redirected the flow, across rural private property lines demarcating the sprawling cattle ranches and the 50-acre retirement ranchettes along a border that is, there on the ground, practically speaking, as abstract as the lines on an old plat map, and as real as a night in jail.

Roger Barnett, a working rancher/ propane merchant near Douglas, Arizona, has become a poster boy for property rights supporters and anti-immigrant activists. He's appeared everywhere from the Douglas Daily Dispatch to ABC News, made famous for claiming to have detained -- over the course of a two-year period, with the help of his brother Donald -- more than 2,000 criminal trespassers on his property.

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