By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Chandler freelance writer Randy Harrington triggered a foaming-at-the-mouth frenzy in the anti-immigration movement earlier this month when he published a bombshell story revealing that Mexican government officials are supposedly providing substantial aid to Mexican citizens seeking to illegally enter the United States.
"The Mexican Consulate is briefing illegal aliens, and providing them with U.S. cash, and intelligence data designed to defeat Sheriff [Joe] Arpaio's efforts to combat illegal immigration," Harrington states in the lead paragraph of his July 7 article that was first published on the anti-immigrationist American Chronicle Web site.
The story was republished July 9 on Mexican-basher Glenn Spencer's popular Web site American Patrol, where it has received more than 16 million hits. It went on to provide details about meetings between Mexicans preparing to illegally enter the United States and representatives of the Mexican Consulate.
Harrington reported that during the alleged meetings held in San Luis, a small Mexican border town south of Yuma, Mexican officials provided detailed information on Maricopa County Sheriff's Office operations in the desert southwest of Phoenix, including the times of shift changes and the type of vehicles used by officers.
"Before the meeting ended, each meeting attendee was given a bag that had an envelope which contained $250 in U.S. currency. 2 gallons of water. Canned food. And a prepaid telephone calling card," Harrington's story states.
Harrington claims in his article that Mexican officials also provided attendees with detailed, 10-page written instructions on how to navigate across the border and what to do once in the United States.
"The written instructions . . . provided 'Contact Numbers' for illegal aliens to call if they got in trouble in the United States," Harrington wrote. "One of the telephone numbers was the office of U.S. Senator John McCain in Phoenix. The instructions in Spanish said, 'if you have any problems you should call Senator McCain's office who has agreed to help Mexican nationals in the United States.'"
Mexican authorities, Harrington reported, told attendees that it was best to enter the United States near Douglas because the sheriff's departments in Cochise, Pima and Pinal counties were not aggressively going after illegal aliens, like Arpaio is in Maricopa County.
The story concludes with Harrington praising Arpaio for his aggressive work rounding up illegal aliens and making more than 245 arrests in recent weeks.
"Sheriff Arpaio's operation was a success, and he should be applauded for his actions," Harrington states.
It's one hell of a yarn that certainly stirred up emotions in the vitriolic and increasingly rabid anti-immigration movement. I seriously doubt a word of it is true, though the damage it's doing is real.
"The content of the story is outlandish, as are so many of the other rumors about illegal immigrants that get repeated so often they are taken as fact," said Heidi Beirich, spokeswoman for the Southern Poverty Law Center based in Montgomery, Alabama, a nonprofit organization that tracks hate groups across the country.
"There's a certain xenophobic sector of the population that wants to believe the worst about immigrants, and this kind of 'reporting' only adds fuel to the fire," Beirich said.
I sent a copy of Harrington's story to McCain spokesman Paul Hickman. He said the story, which makes several references to McCain's office providing assistance to illegal aliens, is totally unfounded.
"Our office has not agreed to help anyone engaged in any illegal enterprise, irrespective of their nationality," Hickman said.
Admittedly, I cannot speak to every detail in Harrington's article. But I can report with absolute certainty that Harrington, 50, is a professional con man who was married to three women at the same time. He's a deadbeat dad owing more than $31,000 for two of his children who has a well-documented history of deceit stretching from here to Nogales, Sonora.
The fact that he was able to publish his tall tale of illegal border crossings in two of the leading anti-immigration Web sites American Patrol and American Chronicle seriously damages whatever credibility these propaganda mills possessed.
Glenn Spencer, president of American Patrol, didn't return my telephone calls requesting an interview to discuss any expertise Harrington might have on illegal-immigration matters, along with Harrington's extensive criminal background that includes prison time in California and Arizona.
Peter Kresa, an American Chronicleeditor,tells me he was unaware of Harrington's criminal background. He said many of the stories on the Web site are posted without detailed review by editors.
During a 44-minute, taped telephone interview with Harrington on July 19, he confirmed most of his criminal past but continued to deny involvement in other issues that were documented in court records.
Randy Harrington repeatedly denied that he was ever married to Judy Lynn Harrington, even though I told him I had copies of an August 15, 2005, judgment stating he owed $31,722, plus interest, in past child support for two children born during that marriage.
"I have no clue who she is, or what that's all about," he told me.
I told him the child-support order included a social security number that I had seen connected to his name in other court documents related to his extensive criminal activity.
Harrington claimed that somebody had been using his social security number in the past and had even applied for an Arizona driver's license. He said that's why it might be showing up in reference to the marriage.