Nativist Extremist Pushing Arizona to Activate New ‘State Guard’

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer last Thursday signed into law a bill authorizing herself and future Arizona governors to deploy an “Arizona State Guard” at any time and for any reason she sees fit. This state guard – in essence, a kind of all-volunteer militia that is immune from being federalized – would be a force that can be “activated” to do much of the same work that the National Guard does.

Republican State Rep. Jack Harper, who co-sponsored the bill and has been pushing the issue since Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was governor of Arizona, told newspapers he hoped to see the militia established immediately and used to patrol the U.S.-Mexican border for undocumented immigrants. Arizona has already been the subject of much controversy around its harshly anti-immigrant policies, especially the S.B. 1070 law that critics say subjects all Latinos in the state to racial profiling and is currently held up in the federal courts.

Harper is not the only one enthused about the new law. Now comes a campaign — apparently led by an extremist nativist hardliner once sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center — to push Brewer into activating the guard immediately.

On numerous websites with nativist, antigovernment “Patriot” and white supremacist leanings, a poster variously using the names of Jack, Jack Foote, or John “Jack” Foote” has been urging people to contact politicians to prod the governor into acting. Aside from that, Foote’s main message seems to be that the Arizona State Guard cannot legally be federalized (as some Southern guard units were during the civil rights movement in order to put down resistance to school desegregation). All Foote’s posts refer readers to a site for the Arizona State Guard Foundation, which describes itself as a small group of “Private Citizens in support of the Arizona State Guard.” The foundation site — which makes dubious claims like “Drug cartel mercenaries have been operating paramilitary Observation Posts deep inside Arizona for YEARS” — prominently features an E-mail address for “Jack.”

In 2003, Foote was the leader of an anti-immigrant paramilitary group called Ranch Rescue whose members assaulted two Salvadoran migrants who crossed the border on foot onto a Texas ranch, where they were stopped at gunpoint by the rancher, Foote and other members of Foote’s group. One of the migrants was struck in the head with a pistol and had a Rottweiler dog sicced on him.

The Southern Poverty Law Center sued on behalf of the migrants and obtained a default civil judgment on their behalf of $500,000 from Foote and another for $850,000 from Foote’s confederate, Casey Nethercott. (The rancher settled for $100,000.) Nethercott did not have the money, but he did own a 70-acre Arizona border property called Camp Thunderbird and built specifically to train nativist vigilantes in paramilitary skills. That land, complete with firing ranges and obstacle courses, was eventually deeded to the victimized migrants.

Little has been heard from Nethercott or Foote since the suit – until now.

Hatewatch was unable to definitively confirm that the Jack Foote posting on these sites is the same man who headed Ranch Rescue. But given the geographic and political parallels, it seems almost certain that he has re-emerged and is trying to reinsert himself into the nativist universe. In a post pushing the Arizona State Guard on Freedom’s Phoenix, a far-right online magazine, Foote wrote that Al Garza, former vice president of Chris Simcox’s disintegrating Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), is also working for the Arizona State Guard Foundation. He said the foundation is headed by a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel named Luther “Luke” Taylor, for whom no information was available.