Yesterday, another child died at the hands of hate.
J.T. Ready, a prominent racist and border vigilante in Arizona, reportedly shot and killed four people, including a two-year-old girl. Ready allegedly committed suicide after the shooting spree.
Ready built a public persona on his violent, anti-immigrant rhetoric and connection to former State Senator Russell Pearce who helped introduce and pass SB 1070.
It’s hard not to speculate that this tragedy could have been prevented had he not been glorified by the anti-immigrant movement. J.T. Ready was a violent man, and while Arizona’s conservative leaders had distanced themselves from him in recent years, none of them tried to stop him.
In 2009, another anti-immigrant leader, Shawna Forde, attacked a young family in Arizona, killing nine-year-old Brisenia Flores in cold blood. Like Ready, Forde felt it was her right to violently enforce her anti-immigrant ideology.
Minutemen and border vigilante groups have long attracted members with extreme ideologies who feel justified in taking the law into their own hands. While most claim that their activities are non-violent, their collective history tells a different story.
Shawna Forde, at the time a leader of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, along with two accomplices, attacked the Flores family in their home near the border. Forde was later apprehended by the FBI, tried and sentenced to death.
Like Ready, Forde had connections to more mainstream elements of the anti-immigrant movement. She was identified as a Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) representative in a video of a panel discussion on immigration (FAIR denied the affiliation after her arrest.)
Russell Pearce and anti-immigrant groups can deny affiliations with violent extremists as often as they like, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough to distance themselves from the fringe. Anti-immigrant leaders must own up to the racist violence that results from demonizing immigrants and anyone perceived as a foreigner. That’s exactly what has happened in Arizona and other parts of the country where racist laws like SB 1070 have taken effect.
How many more children have to die in Arizona before the climate of hate is changed?
This tragedy proves once again that Arizona doesn’t have a problem with immigrants; it has a problem with violent bigots. And it’s time conservative leaders became a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.