Arizona border residents are so weary of illegal aliens hoofing through local properties that they plan to station armed members on public land this weekend to stop them from crossing the border from Mexico.
Members of the 600-member group spearheaded by a former Tombstone kindergarten teacher say they plan to be out on patrol each weekend until President Bush puts U.S. troops on the border to stem the flow of illegal aliens.
Group members say they are frustrated by a steady flow of smugglers, drug dealers and others who vandalize both public and private property in the area.
Citizen patrols and other militia groups are also springing up all along the border, where U.S. Border Patrol agents already apprehend thousands of illegal aliens a year.
State and federal lawmakers want hearings to determine if armed militias are legal. Some high-ranking Arizona officials say they plan to ask U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate the patrols and militias.
At first glance, the controversy might seem like a regional border rift confined to Arizona. But it underscores how vulnerable our borders are to would-be terrorists and how the United States needs to move quickly in sharpening its act on border policy and immigration.
The armed militias add to the potential of border violence, and people should be discouraged from taking the law into their hands. However, many property owners along the border have had problems with illegal aliens for years.
Crime and vandalism from illegal aliens is an increasing problem, and the war on terrorism adds even more tensions for landowners who are already uptight about trespassers.
Our nation has many holes to fix in its immigration policies.
Most foreign-born terrorists known to have been in the United States -- including the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers -- resided here as lawful temporary visitors, naturalized citizens or permanent residents.
Borders are a first basic defense, and until the government does a better job of protecting them, officials shouldn't be surprised if some people try to take on the task themselves.
-- Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)Dec. 11
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