A controversial border "vigilante" condemned by national civil rights organizations was one of the featured speakers at Wednesday's Border Management Conference and Technology Expo in El Paso.
Glenn Spencer, president of American Border Patrol in Arizona, was an exhibitor at the two-day conference in the Judson F. Williams Convention Center. The conference, which ended Wednesday, brings together government officials and defense contractors.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League consider Spencer to be anti-Hispanic, anti-Jewish and anti-immigrant, and they characterize the American Border Patrol as a hate group.
Spencer, who is also president of Border Technology Inc., and a business associate
presented a video demonstrating the company's IDENTISEIS detection and identification system, which Spencer says is the "missing link in border security." The video shows the American Border Patrol logo.
Spencer said his technology uses a seismic sensor system similar to the ones used by oil and gas exploration companies, as well as his company's specially developed software, plus Motorola Canopy and HughesNet systems. He said that it's been field-tested at his ranch on the Arizona-Mexico border, and that such a solar-powered system can be installed along the border for about $100,000 per mile.
"It's unfortunate that the conference chose someone like Glenn Spencer to be a presenter," said Fernando Garcia, director of the Border
Network for Human Rights, based in El Paso. "There are many other legitimate border experts they could have picked instead of someone whose organization stands for hate and prejudice."
In an interview at the convention center, Spencer denied allegations that he or his organization is prejudiced.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's website, Spencer is a "vitriolic Mexican-basher and self-appointed guardian of the border who may have done more than anyone to spread the myth of a secret Mexican conspiracy to reconquer the Southwest (an effort supposedly known as 'la reconquista')."
"He is best known for his effort to establish a 'shadow Border Patrol' by using citizen patrols and various sensors and surveillance equipment to track the movement of migrants crossing the Mexico-Arizona border," the website continues.
The Southern Poverty Law Center also alleged that Spencer had called for shutting down Spanish-language networks Telemundo and Univision -- a claim that Spencer denies.
The website for the American Border Patrol, which is based in Arizona, states that the organization "is the only non-governmental organization (NGO) that monitors the border on a regular basis -- mostly by air. It
has three aircraft, each designed for a specialized mission."
Its website also states that "ABP operates from a ranch right on the Mexican border in Southeastern Arizona in the heart of a major smuggling corridor. ABP is a watchdog. We watch what the government is doing and we report to you directly."
The Anti-Defamation League characterizes Spencer's American Border Patrol as a hate group.
Spencer, who wore a camouflage cap during the conference, said the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center have taken brief statements he's made in the past "and twisted them around and taken them out of context."
"They view me as 'the opposition,' and seek to discredit me because they are against border security," Spencer said. "Why, they practically run the Department of Homeland Security."
Bill Straus, spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League in Arizona, said the league supports border security and opposes illegal immigration.
"We have also stated that we have a need for comprehensive immigration reform in this country," Straus said. "As usual, Spencer is wrong. We have been documenting Spencer's outrageous activities for a long, long time."
In 2003, the Anti-Defamation League produced a special report, "Border Disputes, Armed Vigilantes in Arizona," that includes information about Spencer and the American Border Patrol.
The report states Spencer was a guest speaker at a white supremacist American Renaissance Conference in Virginia in 2002 and made a presentation "predicting a Mexican-American war in 2003."
U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, was a featured speaker for the first day of the El Paso conference, which was organized by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement, a private organization that puts on conferences for government officials to meet with contractors who might have solutions for their technical problems.
Reyes' spokesman Jose Borjon did not know whether the congressman was advised in advance about Spencer's presence at the conference.
A spokesman for the conference and technology expo was unavailable for comment.
Other featured speakers from the government sector at the two-day conference included officials of the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol, FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
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