Navarrette: Border justice in the wrong hands

I can usually count on amusement from a band of border vigilantes and their Minuteman-tics.

In April 2006, when Sen. John McCain dared unemployed union members to pick lettuce to disprove his contention that Americans won't do the jobs that immigrants do, an outraged group of Minutemen demonstrated outside McCain's office holding heads of lettuce. The produce was wrapped in cellophane and stamped with a bar code. The protesters picked it at a supermarket.

In October 2006, I lampooned the Minutemen for prowling "the U.S.- Mexico border chasing Mexicans -- admittedly, not an easy thing to do when you're carrying a lawn chair and a cooler of beer." Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the Minuteman Project Inc., wrote a rebuttal insisting that his volunteers "do not drink on duty." When I tell that story to cops, they usually chuckle at "on duty."

In February 2007, Gilchrist found himself in a long and bitter feud with directors of his own organization after they fired him over allegations of fraud, failure to secure nonprofit status, mismanagement and falsifying documents. Gilchrist sued the board, which retained control of the Minuteman name, and the board countersued. Gilchrist later launched a new group, Jim Gilchrist's Minuteman Project Inc.

But there's nothing amusing about what occurred May 30 in Arivaca, Ariz.

Nine-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul, were killed by intruders dressed in camouflage and impersonating law enforcement officers. Brisenia's mother, Gina, was also shot, but survived.

Officials have charged Shawna Forde, Jason Bush and Albert Gaxiola in the shootings. Forde, a native of Everett, Wash., is the founder of a border-watch group called Minutemen American Defense. Bush is a member of the group.

Since the killings, factions of the Minutemen organization have been desperately attempting to portray Forde and Bush as rogue members who went off the deep end.

Not so fast. The Minutemen shouldn't be allowed to disown Forde, Bush or any other border vigilantes incriminated in the investigation. Forde and Bush were marinated in the vile, racist juices of an anti-illegal immigration movement that often seeks to dehumanize people it considers "illegal alien invaders." And, from media reports, it seems that various factions of the organization welcomed Forde into their ranks over the years.

According to an alternative newspaper in Everett, a couple of years ago, Forde ran unsuccessfully for the city council there on an anti-illegal immigration platform. In June 2007, Forde co-sponsored an " Illegal Immigration Summit" where, according to the newspaper, she warned the audience that illegal immigrants would soon "outnumber real Americans" and that one would have to speak Spanish to get a job. The keynote speaker warned that a "tsunami" of Mexican immigrants threatened the national identity, that "soft immigration laws" were destroying the country, and that Spanish would be the national language of the U.S. by 2030. The keynote speaker? Jim Gilchrist.

Navarrette's e-mail address is SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE