The (Buried) Story of the Flores Family
The story of the Flores family apparently was too contradictory to the stories American news media like to promote nowadays. It just didn't fit in the current media climate. It wasn't about North Africa and the Middle East or about the Tucson, Ariz., massacre or about efforts to repeal health care reform. It wasn't about Charlie Sheen's antics or public employees in Madison, Wis., or about undocumented immigrants and the hatred a loud minority of Americans feel for them. It wasn't even about border vigilantes who claim to be protecting us from an invasion of criminals.
The vast majority of the American news media chose to play down or ignore the story of the Flores family, simply (and shamefully) because it went against the flow. This time, it was the criminals who had invaded an American Hispanic home, and they were Minutemen vigilantes.
If you didn't read or hear about the horrific way in which 9-year-old Brisenia Flores was murdered or that jurors wept when they heard the graphic details of the crimes committed against the Flores family, it's probably because during the past month, most of the mainstream media chose to discuss other topics they deemed to be more important. If you don't know about the woman convicted and sentenced to death for the killing of Brisenia and her father, it's probably because you blinked during the few seconds this story was under the spotlight.
Had it been the other way around, had a white American family been murdered by three undocumented immigrants, you know we would have heard about it until we were saturated with the news. In fact, such a case — namely the murder of rancher Robert Krentz, allegedly by a Mexican drug runner — was highly publicized, and it keeps motivating immigrant-bashing politicians to introduce Draconian laws in Arizona.
But the Flores family lived in Arizona, too, 11 miles from the Mexican border. Brisenia was the same age as Christina Green, the girl so tragically shot and killed in Tucson on Jan. 8. We cried for Christina and the other five people killed by, according to police, Jared Loughner. But many of us were not even told about Brisenia.
Arizona has been in the news so much lately. Did someone decide the American public is tired of hearing about Arizona just in time to avoid presenting the Hispanic side of the illegal immigration story?
When the criminals turn out to be Minutemen vigilantes, doesn't that deserve some attention? Aren't these the people who are obsessed about those who break immigration laws? Isn't it ironic (and scary) that they are willing to kill to enforce immigration infractions? And isn't it ironic that they killed Hispanic American citizens instead of killing illegal immigrants?
What happened to the Flores family represents the worst fears of many U.S. Latinos — American citizens — who see that the current anti-immigrant climate could affect them.
Some background: Former Minutemen American Defense leader Shawna Forde was convicted in a Tucson courtroom Feb.
Forde, who also had served as a spokeswoman for the xenophobia-mongering organization known as FAIR (the Federation for American Immigration Reform), also was convicted on burglary, robbery and aggravated assault charges. She was sentenced to death Feb. 22 for masterminding the home invasion. Her two alleged accomplices, Albert Robert Gaxiola and Jason Eugene Bush, still are awaiting trial.
Authorities said the three formed a hit squad that planned to raid, rob and murder drug dealers to finance their anti-immigrant organization. Apparently, they expected these criminal endeavors to gain them notoriety among right-wing extremists and white supremacist lunatics. And even after a murder conviction, it has! Although Forde only led a smaller militia group, which had broken away from the Minutemen, some of her sick followers now consider her a patriot and a Minuteman martyr.
During Forde's trial, prosecutors said she and her accomplices posed as Border Patrol agents, accused Raul Flores of harboring undocumented immigrants and claimed that the house was surrounded by law enforcement officers. Once inside, Bush allegedly shot Flores in the chest and Gonzalez in the leg. Gonzalez survived by shooting one of the invaders with her husband's pistol and calling 911. She testified that her daughter Brisenia was shot as the girl pleaded for her life.
Forde and her accomplices allegedly expected to find a huge stash of either cash or drugs at the Flores home. They found neither.
It's hard to imagine how the dramatic details of the demise of the Flores family, as revealed in the courtroom, could have escaped major media attention. But they did!
There were a few exceptions — CNN's Gary Tuchman did a wonderful report on Anderson Cooper's program, and Spanish-language TV networks covered some of the trial proceedings — but most mainstream newspapers hardly spent any ink on this story.
When the Tucson massacre occurred, some right-wing politicians tried to deny that Arizona's climate of anti-immigrant hatred had anything to do with the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. When they claimed not to see the connection, we wondered whether they were blind.
But now that we know about the raid on the Flores home by Border Patrol agent impersonators, now that they picked on Latinos who happened to be American citizens, now that three people allegedly committed murder to finance an anti-immigrant organization, I wonder whether they see the connection now.
The media certainly haven't. They saw the raid on the Flores home as an isolated incident instead of as the consequences of the vitriolic rhetoric expressed in many anti-immigrant stories they do cover.
Gaxiola, 44, who is accused of choosing the Flores home for the group's first raid, is scheduled to be tried in June. Bush, 36, the alleged gunman, goes on trial later this month.
Let's see how long the national mainstream media intend to bury this story.
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM