See Tombstone, Nab a Mexican

Chris Simcox wants 14 million Americans to visit Tombstone, Arizona

Photo by Kate Hargrave/
Tombstone TumbleweedTombstone, Arizona's official proclamation of welcome to visitors invites them to "walk the boardwalks where all of the famous lawmen, outlaws, gamblers and miners walked" and "relive the Wild West Days through one of the Gunfight Shows that take place daily."

But the city that murder made famous has seen a recent drop in sightseers. So Chris Simcox, editor of the town's only newspaper, has embarked on a nationwide tour to drum up tourism business for his burb, a tour that brought him to Orange County last week.

"If you're planning your vacation, plan on coming down to Tombstone," Simcox urged the California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR) meeting in Garden Grove. "We have homeowners willing to provide rooms, hotels that give discounts, business owners who do everything they can to support our members."

His goal: to get at least 5 percent of the United States' population—that's 14 million Americans—to spend their income in his town and, while there, nab some Mexicans.

Besides his job at the Tombstone Tumbleweed, Simcox is a member of the Civil Homeland Defense Corps, an Arizona-based vigilante group. According to its mission statement, the Corps uses "legal means" to stop "illegal aliens, drug traffickers and terrorists from entering the United States by physical presence along the immediate U.S. Mexican border."

Simcox opened his remarks to the CCIR the way most anti-immigrant activists do, by claiming he isn't a racist. "Our approach to fighting illegal immigration isn't racially or ethnically motivated," he told the overwhelmingly white audience. "When [opponents] try to make me out to be a racist, I show them a picture of my African-American son. I show them the pictures of the children I have taught over the past 15 years. I tell them I was head of the diversity committee at my school. They then kick the dirt and say, 'Darn, we can't call him that.' They've run out of things to call us—except good Americans."

He accused the national media of trying to depict Tombstone as a backwater. "They all came down looking for that great story," he rambled. "They walk into my office and ask, 'Where's Billy Joe Bob, the redneck vigilante?' They then took a look around and say, 'You can't be Chris!' They go away as if I robbed them or something."

But Simcox seemed to go too far when he pitched humanitarianism. "We always have to remember that illegal immigrants are also human beings," he said. Some in the crowd immediately snickered.

But after the multicultural pitch—including Simcox's assertion that he has shared water with Mexicans—he showed the crowd a picture of a Mexican army jeep apparently near the U.S. border. "There's something very fishy going on at the border," he almost whispered. "The Mexican army is driving American vehicles—but carrying Chinese weapons. I have personally seen what I can only believe to be Chinese troops."

More than the African-American son, school-diversity program and shared beverages, the Sino-phobia is more a part of an anti-immigrant ideology that attempts to link Mexico with every perceived foreign threat—not just Chinese communists, but also al-Qaida operatives and Latin American guerillas. But China looms largest. Simcox's group's website ( proclaims China one of America's gravest threats. "Far out in the distance is China, the long-range threat that knows no time limit," the Cold War-style manifesto reads. "Yet already China has begun to set the stage for future conflict by encroaching on and occupying the strategic enclave of Panama."

Simcox kept insisting he wasn't a racist, however, because many Latinos in Arizona hate illegal immigrants, too. "They're trashing their neighborhoods, refusing to assimilate, standing on street corners, jeering at little girls walking on their way to school!" he said. "I have a Hispanic friend who I have to keep from getting his .357 from the truck."

He ended his 45-minute speech by issuing a "new call to arms" to the nation. He vowed that his group would have 700 members next month—and they're not going to be as nice as they have been in the past.

"So far, we've had restraint, but I'm afraid that restraint is wearing thin," he warned. "Take heed of our weapons because we're going to defend our borders by any means necessary."

The crowd roared. Tombstone awaits the revenue.