Justice for Brisenia as Minutemen Leader Convicted of Murders

Days after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne filed suit against the federal government for allegedly failing to protect the state from a Mexican “invasion,” the high-profile murder conviction of a Minutemen border vigilante underscores the state’s misguided border priorities.

Earlier this week, a jury found Shawna Forde—leader of the Minutemen American Defense (MAD)—guilty of murdering 8-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul Flores, Jr. during a racially motivated home invasion in 2009. Forde faces the death penalty for orchestrating the robbery and murders.

ColorLines’ Julianne Hing reports that Forde had planned a number of elaborate home invasions to raise funds for her border patrol activities—targeting individuals whom she (erroneously) believed to be drug dealers. Though no drugs were found in the Flores home, Forde—who, incidentally, has close ties to both the Tea Party and the conservative think tank Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)—nevertheless justified Brisenia’s murder on the grounds that “people shouldn’t deal drugs if they have kids.” After watching Forde’s accomplices shoot her mother and kill her father, Brisenia was shot twice in the face.

While Latino advocacy groups have characterized the Flores murders as hate crimes provoked—at least in part—by state leaders’ incendiary anti-immigrant rhetoric, many regard Forde’s conviction as one of many indicators that the tables are turning on anti-immigrant politicos like Brewer who have curried political support through fear-mongering and misinformation.

Less tolerance for border vigilantes

As Valeria Fernandez reports at New America Media, the verdict comes just weeks after another Arizona court upheld a decision against rancher Roger Barnett who, in an act of unwarranted border vigilantism, assaulted a group of migrants traveling across his property. Barnett was fined $80,000. While the Forde and Barnett cases are only two incidents of a nationwide rash of anti-Latino crime, their convictions are particularly significant in Arizona, where state leaders have long tolerated and even encouraged border vigilantism as a necessary response to purported border-related violence.

A year ago, state politicians—including Brewer—fomented a national anti-immigrant mania (which handily ushered in SB 1070) by promoting false reports of border violence. As Valeria Fernandez reported at Feet in 2 Worlds last March, lawmakers were quick to attribute the shooting of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz to an unidentified, undocumented Mexican immigrant—though the sheriff in charge of the case later told the press that the prime suspect was not actually Mexican.

Brewer, for her part, gained national notoriety after fabricating tales of beheadings in the Arizona desert—which, as I wrote for Campus Progress at the time—generated support for her anti-immigrant political agenda while diverting public attention away from the reality that most of Arizona’s border violence is directed at immigrants, rather than perpetrated by them.

Arizona’s countersuit against the federal government

Brewer’s recent countersuit against the federal government—which alleges that Arizona is under invasion from the south and that the feds have failed to protect the state accordingly—similarly conjures nativist fantasies of immigrant-fueled border violence. But, as Scott Lemieux posits at TAPPED, the suit idly and transparently villainizes immigrants:

It is (to put it mildly) a stretch to argue that Arizona is undergoing an “invasion.” Illegal immigration does not constitute a military threat or an attempt to overthrow the state government; anti-immigration metaphors are not a sound basis for constitutional interpretation.

Like those propagated by state lawmakers during Arizona’s nativist heyday last spring, this new offensive belies the reality that, while anti-Latino hate crimes have risen by 52 percent nationally in recent years, border crime has been on the decline for quite some time—a fact noted by Alternet’s Julianne Escobedo Shepherd in her coverage of the countersuit.

Yet, in an effort to further their extreme, anti-immigrant agenda, Arizona’s nativist lawmakers determinedly maintain the myth that Latin American immigration somehow generates a groundswell of violent crime—even when doing so requires the hasty revision of a rancher’s death, and the callous disregard of an innocent child’s murder.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. 

Related Stories: 

Minutemen Trial Underway in Arizona, Where’s the Coverage?

Forde Supporter Dons Disguise, Sneaks into Trial

White Supremacists at CPAC

Photo by: readysubjects
By Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger


William C
William Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

W. C
W. C2 years ago


LMj Sunshine
James merritt jr6 years ago

Thank you for article.

LMj Sunshine
James merritt jr6 years ago

Thank you for article.

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y7 years ago

Good! We Arizonans are sick of out-of-state ignorant 'Snowbirds' telling us how to solve our problems. I hope this is a clear signal and more to come (the actual triggermen should get the same sentence - and YES we have the death penalty in AZ and in this case it might well be applied).

It's partly the fault of extremist politicians but also these national figures like Lou Dobbs or Sean Hannity who don't know s_ about Arizona, but try to scare hell out of old ladies in Ohio or Kansas with cries of 'the Mexicans are coming!'

Well, the Mexicans have BEEN in Arizona since before Americans came and we get along fine with them - the ones who are here are American Citizens! In fact they are our best cops and border patrol agents because they understand the culture and the criminals and it's because of them that the drug wars HAVEN'T come to Arizona. Make no mistake, the old Mexican families and cowboy families get along great - it's these new 'snowbirds' (folks who come here to retire) who don't understand Arizona and anyone even vaguely brown scares the crap out of them. We wish they would leave our state. We hope these criminals will leave in a more permanent way.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

I couldn't vote, because I do not believe in the death penalty. I am gratified that the vigilante was convicted, as she should have been. Life imprisonment without parole, should put her in a place where she can do no further harm.

Nic F.
Nic F.7 years ago

MAD is the right name for these people! What about Governor Brewer failing to protect people like the Flores family from people like Forde? And inciting these vigilantes by lying about non-existent "headless bodies" in the desert? And saying "If I said it, I was misspoken" She can be seen and heard saying it, there is no question of "If I said it" She also said "The Obama administation havn't "did" their job on border security", she hasn't "did" her job on protecting ALL her citizens. As I said in in my last post under another thread, vigilantes can't tell the difference betweem legal and illegal immigrants, assume ALL are illegal AND drug pushers (Even 9 year old children) and execute them. THAT is why they are so dangerous. Even Native Americans are being picked on by these idiots, because they look Hispanic.

Charles G.
Charles Geller7 years ago

In wide open rural areas like much of Arizona people are more inclined to become vigilantes and take matters into their own hands than in big cities. In many parts of AZ you can drive a hundred miles in rough desert terrain hardly seeing anybody. This type of isolation breeds more feer and more self-protection, as opposed to trusting the government, or police to protect people like in Big Cities. In AZ people have always felt more of a need to take the law into their own hands. It's a lot easier for a criminal to commit a crime and run away in AZ than it is in San Francisco, hence the harsher response.

Richard F.
Ric Fisher7 years ago

What is this mania about "illegal aliens"? Or phobia! Arizonians should go read what's on the Statue of Liberty. Illegal. Those are the folks who talk about "Illegitimate" children. How gross.

Vince D.
Vince D7 years ago

These murderers should hang. They deserve no mercy.

HOWEVER, their actions are no excuse for illegal aliens or their employers. We don't need vigilantes, but we do need to rid this country of illegal aliens and that means putting their employers in jail and deporting the illegals no matter what country they come from..