Shawna Forde and members of Minuteman American Defense — an anti-illegal immigration vigilante group charged in the double homicide of an Arizona man and his 9-year-old daughter and the attempted murder of the man’s wife — shared a stage, if not their vigilante streak, with former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo.
Authorities in Arizona’s Pima County allege Forde, 41, and MAD members Jason Eugene Bush, 34, and Albert Robert Gaxiola, 42, intended to rob and murder the Flores family in order to fund the group’s anti-immigration vigilante activities. Raul Flores, 29, had a history of drug dealing and the trio believed that there would be a large amount of cash at the victims’ trailer home near the border town of Arivaca, according to CBS News. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik fingered Forde as the ringleader.
Forde’s zealous involvement in extremist anti-immigration groups belies the fluidity with which the Everett, Wash., woman traveled within so-called mainstream organizations, which helped further her local and national political aims as well as the goals of those who shared her beliefs.
Her most recent link to Tancredo, the former Republican congressman from Colorado, occurred at a sparsely attended 2007 Everett rally organized by The Reagan Wing and MAD, a splinter group Forde led that was an offshoot of the more widely known Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. The event featured representatives of Tancredo’s dark-horse presidential campaign and a letter of support from the candidate himself.
In typically fiery tone, Tancredo extended his regrets for being unable to attend the “Illegal Immigration Summit”:
I regret that I cannot tell you in person how grateful I am, but thank you.
Thank you so much for your phone calls, your emails, your contributions and everything you did to help “we the people” kill the Bush-Kennedy-McCain amnesty bill in the Senate last week. The American people have said “no” to amnesty, and now they need a president who stands foursquare with them, not one who will sell out once elected.
I am that candidate! And our campaign is the vehicle to ensure that amnesty NEVER happens!
You’re here today because you understand that every day America is under assault: There are nearly twenty million illegal aliens in the country today and before the next presidential election millions more will cross our borders, threatening our economic security, jeopardizing our national security and undermining our national culture.
For nearly a decade, I have fought relentlessly for real immigration reform—a secure border, enforcement of our laws, prosecution of employers who hire illegals, and NO AMNESTY for illegal aliens. In my first term, I founded the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus with one member, myself; today, it includes 108 members of the House. No matter how nasty and bitter the opposition I have faced over the years… from the Hispanic lobby, the corporate special interests, the congressional leadership, and the White House, I have never wavered and never compromised.
While many of my Republican opponents have flipped on this issue since they became presidential candidates, their courage comes from their focus groups and pollsters. But Washington is full of those kinds of guys and thanks to them we have nearly 20 million illegals in this country and more coming every day.
I know you agree that illegal immigration is one of the greatest threats to our nation, and that is why I need your help. A strong grassroots showing at the Iowa Straw Poll on Saturday, August 11, will be an enormous boost to my candidacy, and will ensure that Washington understands America wants action NOW. Not only do we want no more talk of amnesty —we want the border defended, and our laws enforced, and we want the invasion stopped NOW. So please, call 1-888-GOTOM-08 and get involved. Or just visit my website, www.teamtancredo.org
My friends, with your help we can and will make the crisis on our borders THE ISSUE of the 2008 Presidential campaign and stop amnesty once and for all!
Thank you so very much.
Congressman Tom Tancredo
At the time of the Washington State rally, Tancredo was in Iowa stumping “in a packed room inside the Des Moines Quality Inn. Standing room only,” according to his now-abandoned campaign blog.
Bay Buchanan, campaign chair for Tancredo’s presidential bid, dismissed the letter as a boilerplate rejection to attend the event — one of dozens routinely sent by the campaign.
“We were a very lean operation and we didn’t have anyone formally in Washington State,” Buchanan told The Colorado Independent. “To the best of his knowledge Congressman Tancredo has never met Ms. Forde.”
Yet, a July 1, 2007, story published by the Everett Herald further placed official Tancredo campaign staff at the event as well as Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist — whose own group’s bitter 2005 internal power struggle led to the creation of the defense corps that eventually spawned Forde’s faction.
Saturday’s six-hour forum held at the Everett Elks Lodge was organized by Minutemen American Defense and The Reagan Wing, both Washington-based conservative groups.
Forde, the founder of Everett-based Minutemen American Defense, encouraged the audience to shout “take back America” together several times during her speech.
Presidential candidate and California Rep. Duncan Hunter spoke to the audience via cell phone, saying he would build an 850-mile wall along the southern border stretching from California to Texas.
A representative for presidential candidate Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and Republican congressional hopeful Doug Roulstone also spoke. People paid $30 each to attend.
The newspaper noted that Forde was a 2007 candidate for the Everett City Council on an anti-immigration platform. She received 5,900 votes, or 35 percent, but lost the general election. A year prior she unsuccessfully attempted to put a ballot initiative before voters that sought to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving state aid.
A commenter identified as Kelly Anne Martin at the Reagan Wing blog described the rally scene, which she attended with her then-7-year-old son, purchasing a Minuteman “Welcome to America, Press #1 for English” T-shirt for the second grader. Furthering the newspaper’s coverage, Martin confirmed Tancredo staff were at the rally with a booth distributing his presidential campaign materials.
The Tancredo-Forde connections continue with their joint association with the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Forde participated in a televised 2006 town hall meeting in Yakima, Wash., where she was identified repeatedly as a representative of FAIR.
Tancredo has had long-standing relationships with FAIR and its sister organizations, funded by Michigan eugenics-proponent John Tanton, from his days in Congress as founder and chair of the House Commission on Immigration Reform. Many of Tanton’s organizations, including FAIR, have been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Since Forde and her cohorts have been charged with first-degree murder in the killings and assault of the Flores family, FAIR and both Minuteman sects have issued statements distancing themselves from Forde and the splinter group she led.
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, said Forde was well known in the anti-illegal immigration community.
“She’s someone who even within the anti-immigration movement has been labeled as unstable,” Levin said. “She was basically forced out of another anti-immigrant group, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, and then founded her own organization.”
Blogging the Arizona murder story yesterday, University of California instructor and longtime journalist Marc Cooper wrote that it is “a direct chilling, bloody manifestation of the sort of extremist violence that was predicted at the beginning of the year by a DHS report — a report withdrawn under protest from conservatives.”
John Tomasic contributed to this report.