Russell Pearce's State-Funded Vigilante Force, and the Democrats Who Rolled Over for It

State Senator Russell Pearce, along with his colleague state Senator Al Melvin, have added an amendment to a bill that creates an anti-immigrant vigilante force on the Arizona-Mexico border, and grants it $200,000 with which to do business.

Melvin offered the hastily-drafted provision as part of a package forming an Arizona Border Security Commission, which would report on the status of the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The whole commission idea transforms HB 2162, which previously dealt with a tax credit for solar energy, though it was likely always intended to be converted with some sort of strike-everything amendment. (Slick, eh?)

The commission would include designees from the governor and the president of the state Senate, the state attorney general, and representatives from various law enforcement entities, both federal and local.

But as state Senator Paula Aboud, a Democrat and the only member of the Pearce-chaired Senate Appropriations Committee to vote against the amendment, pointed out in her questions to Pearce, the legislature would not just be forming a committee if the measure passes, but forcing it to act.

According to the bill, the commission must recommend the addition of 3,000 Border Patrol agents, and that the U.S. military and National Guard troops be rushed to the border.

Most insidiously, Republicans Pearce and Melvin demand that $200,000 from funds assigned to GIITEM, the state's Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission, "be distributed to the Cochise county sheriff's office for border security, including the costs of equipment related to a pilot program to dispatch a volunteer security force to the United States‑Mexico border."

In essence, with the recent collapse of the minuteman group MCDC, Pearce is creating a minuteman force in Cochise County, this time backed by state funds.

Do we really need another posse of Sunday soldiers and yahoos down at the border, much less one supplied by money that should go to fighting gangs? What's next, state-financed death squads? Um, not that I want to give Pearce any ideas.

Of course, in the April 6, Appropriations Committee hearing on this matter, Pearce invoked the name of recently murdered rancher Robert Krentz, the man whose corpse Pearce and other nativist extremists are exploiting to ram through police state legislation, like Pearce's SB 1070.

But Pearce also invoked the name of another rancher, the infamous Roger Barnett, notorious in southern Arizona for holding Hispanics at gunpoint. In 2009, Barnett was ordered by a jury to pay over $70K in damages in a civil suit brought by migrants claiming Barnett held them at gunpoint and assaulted one of them 

In 2008, the Arizona Supreme Court let stand a nearly $100,000 award against Barnett in a similar incident, this one involving American citizens of Hispanic descent who strayed onto his property during a hunting expedition. 

Maybe Pearce should call his new force the "Barnett Brigade," particularly since the goal of harassing Hispanics seems close to Pearce's heart. 

Barnett could be a colonel of the vigilante contingent. Pearce lickspittle and former MCDC minuteman state Rep. Carl Seel could be a lieutenant. Ex-U.S. Senate candidate Chris Simcox? Give him epaulettes and a sword and let him ride up front as a general. 

It's not amazing that Pearce would try to run this through the legislature. What's amazing is that Democratic state Senators Amanda Aguirre and Rebecca Rios supported and voted for it. Sen. Aboud was the only one on the Appropriations Committee to stand up to Pearce and call him out on the obviousness of this legislation.

With every bully step Pearce makes, he takes us closer to a full-blown police state in Arizona. I know. Some would contend we're there already. But we're nothing close to Pearce's  nightmare vision, yet.

That Democrats would roll over for Pearce on this is obscene. Kudos to Aboud for casting her lone "Nay." Shame on Aguirre and Rios for beating the bushes for a extremist like Russell Pearce.

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