Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/1008vigilantes-ON.html

2 border vigilantes go to jail in capture
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 8, 2003
Daniel González

Two men received jail sentences Wednesday for illegally hunting down undocumented immigrants along the southern Arizona border with Mexico.

Human rights advocates, prosecutors and Mexican officials hailed the sentencing as a blow against border vigilantes, but the leader of a citizens border patrol group said the case has galvanized a group of people in the Yuma area to take up arms and patrol the border themselves.

A Yuma County Superior Court judge in Yuma sentenced Matthew Paul Hoffman, 23, of Yuma to 120 days in jail, and Alexander David Dumas, 26, of Big Bear Lake, Calif., to 30 days in jail. Both men also were placed on three years of probation and ordered to perform 360 hours of community service.

Hoffman and Dumas each pleaded guilty in September to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit unlawful imprisonment. According to an indictment, Hoffman, Dumas and a third man went out on July 31 and confronted a group of six undocumented immigrants in Yuma County and at gunpoint handcuffed them until the U.S. Border Patrol arrived.

The group of undocumented immigrants, who reportedly crossed the Colorado River, included two women, three children and the 16-year-old smuggler. Charges against the third man, Martin Hoffman Jr., 25, of Yuma are pending.

Armed citizens groups have patrolled the border in Cochise County for several years, but this was the first time armed citizens had gone out looking for undocumented immigrants in Yuma County, said Yuma County Attorney Patricia Orozco.

"It's just a very dangerous place, and I don't want to see people hurt, and that's what I fear will happen that if they do go down: We will see people hurt," Orozco said.

Beatriz Chavez, a spokeswoman for the Mexican consulate in Yuma, praised the sentencing.

"To see someone pointing a gun at you is very scary, and they were really defenseless because they were just women and children," Chavez said.

Human rights groups and Mexican officials have asked U.S. authorities to investigate the border militias, fearing the armed groups have added to an already volatile situation along the border that will lead to violence.

Rev. Robin Hoover, president of Humane Borders, a nonprofit organization that builds water stations in the desert for undocumented immigrants, said he hopes Wednesday's sentencing will discourage people from resorting to vigilante activity along the border.

"It sends the right message . . . that this kind of behavior won't be tolerated," Hoover said.

But Chris Simcox, founder of the Civil Homeland Defense, a citizens group based in Tombstone in Cochise County, condemned the sentencing.

"Something is just not right with this situation. The only thing I think they went too overboard was on the handcuffing," said Simcox, who also publishes the weekly Tombstone Tumbleweed. "They potentially saved the lives of those kids, and they were only doing what our president has asked us, which is to be vigilant and to report suspicious illegal activities to the proper authorities."

Simcox said he is in the process of training a group of more than 100 people from Yuma who were galvanized by the charges against the three vigilantes to patrol the border on their own.

Simcox said over the past year his group has turned over more than 2,000 undocumented immigrants to the Border Patrol.

Reach the reporter at daniel.gonzalez@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8312.