Watch draws dozens to border
With Palominas at its center, ‘Operation spike’ honors activist who died
By Jonathon Shacat
Published/Last Modified on Sunday, Sep 27, 2009 - 03:15:32 am MST
PALOMINAS — Dozens of people are participating in an event in southern Cochise County to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border for illegal activity and report it to the authorities.
The border watch event, called Operation Spike, officially started Sept. 19 and is expected to continue until Oct. 15, or possibly be extended to the end of October, depending on the turnout and results, said Al Garza, president and founder of Patriots Coalition.
Garza, who lives in Huachuca City and formerly was affiliated with the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, said the event has been successful so far. In one sector alone at one time, there were 45 participants. Members of Minuteman of One, Patriots Coalition and other like-minded groups are involved.
He said he would not be surprised if as many as 200 or 300 people take part in the event by the time it concludes. Participants are monitoring activities within a
In the picture attached:
Al Garza, left, attaches a banner for Patriots Coalition in Palominas on Friday, as Woody Mitchell looks on. (Jonathon Shacat, Herald/Review)
50-mile radius of Palominas. The Herald/Review agreed not to identify specific locations of the efforts.
Woody Mitchell, the co-chapter director of Patriots Coalition, who was an original Minuteman and lives in Sierra Vista, said the suspected drug smugglers and other illegal immigrants are using sophisticated means, such as radios and Global Positioning Systems.
“They have spotters up there. They know where we are,” he said. “You can see them backing up across the border, waiting for us to either be gone, or looking for another spot to come.”
Last weekend, participants saw groups of 15 and 17 individuals along the border. Garza said those people are “distractors” and their presence generally signifies there is a big load of drugs nearby. He later learned about 65 people were spotted, with some carrying backpacks and four ninja-dressed individuals carrying AK-47s.
“They were not in the United States. They were still in Mexico,” he said. “But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the hell they are up to. They are trying to figure out a way to get in.”
He added that this particular information was forwarded to Border Patrol officials, but he does not know what happened subsequently.
Omar Candelaria, a public information officer for Border Patrol in Tucson, said people can observe the border area and report sightings, as long as they don’t break the law or try to make an apprehension.
“But we don’t encourage people going out and actively looking because they are not trained as Border Patrol agents are trained,” he said. “If something happens, they might put themselves in danger or they might endanger somebody else.”
Garza said, “We are past Minutemen. We are seasoned and we know what to look for. We know what to find. We know when we see something what to expect of it.”
Operation Spike is being held in memory and honor of Hoyt Spike of Tucson. Spike, one of the original Minutemen, was supposed to be involved in this event, but he died as a result of a heart attack just a few days before it was to start, said Garza.
“I almost called this thing off,” he said. “But he wanted this thing so badly that I felt compelled to not only call it Operation Spike, but to honor him by, no matter how many people showed up, to make sure that this thing went ahead and took off as anticipated, and it did.”
Patriots Coalition was formed a couple of months ago. Operation Spike is the group’s first border watch event. Garza stressed that his organization is “very transparent.”
“We are an educating organization. We educate the public, especially the unsuspecting public that are totally in oblivion, about what is really going on. We teach them about the aspects and the devastations created by open border policy and, obviously, the illegal immigrants that are coming through,” he said.
“On the other hand, we also teach other groups about being humane,” he continued. “We have trained two units of search and rescue teams to make sure that lives are saved. The elements of the desert, and the mountains as well, are pretty dangerous.”
Mitchell said a lot of the organization’s members can sympathize with the illegal immigrants who are seeking a better way of life. But they want them to enter the country legally.
Lee Robinson, 59, a participant at the event, said he grew up near Erie, Pa., and came to Arizona for the original Minuteman event in 2005. He has remained along the southwest border ever since, and now lives in Columbus, N.M.
“Over in New Mexico, since Border Patrol tripled their numbers, illegal immigration is down to a trickle,” he said. “That is why I am here in Arizona. They are still coming through certain spots in Arizona like mad.”