Police are investigating a series of death threats made against the lead organizer of the recent immigrant-driven marches in Phoenix.
Elías Bermúdez leads the group Inmigrantes Sin Fronteras, or Immigrants Without Borders, and is the primary organizer of the marches. Phoenix police detective Al Ramirez said on April 3 that Bermúdez filed a formal complaint about the threats, which he has received by phone and in the mail.
Police said Bermúdez has received dozens of phone calls telling him to stop the marches in Phoenix, which have attracted thousands of Latinos seeking changes to immigration law that would grant citizenship to illegal workers living in the U.S.
Ramirez said police are treating the case seriously. And Bermúdez is taking extra safety precautions.
At Monday’s three-mile march, “I had to wear a bulletproof vest all day,” Bermúdez said. “I had to have special security all day because I received many calls from people trying to harm me.”
Bermúdez said a caller told his 26-year-old daughter: “Take care of your father, or he’ll disappear.”
Police said the Latino activist also received a menacing note postmarked March 29.
In a copy obtained by the Tribune, Bermúdez was warned, mostly in English, that “you and your wife Dora are dead unless you stop your mental games with the illegals.”
It continued: “But if you go to Mexico and shake your compatriote Fox’s hand you might not be dead meatballs — ‘carne machaca.’ It is up to you amigo.” The cryptic message has stumped police. They also are unable to identify the callers leaving threatening messages on Bermúdez’s cell phone, his only telephone. Although it has caller ID, the phone shows the threatening calls are from a private number, Ramirez said.
Police have no suspects, but whoever is arrested could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor of threatening and intimidation. A conviction is punishable by up to six months in prison and $205,000 in fines.
The obvious suspects would be opponents of immigration reform, but which ones? Some of Bermúdez’s enemies include the coyotes who make money smuggling immigrants across the U.S.-Mexican border.
Bermúdez considered putting a block on his phone to ensure that only recognizable callers ring through, but decided against it. International calls often show up as private numbers, and he doesn’t want to lose touch with advocates in Mexico.
The activist said that although he’s taking safety precautions, “I’m not afraid.”