Minutemen appear to be restyling campaign along Mexican
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
The Minuteman Project - reported on by the media as an
impending disaster in the immigration debate - is changing its tune.
What started as a group of volunteers intending to monitor
illegal entrants crossing the border and calling them in to the U.S. Border
Patrol is now being sold as something more like a tailgate party on the
banks of the San Pedro River.
"Our MO has changed," said Richard Humphries, a retired
federal agent who's in charge of the planes the Minuteman volunteers will
use to patrol the area. "Originally, we were going to try to remain quiet
and hidden. That way when the illegals walked by, we could see them."
The group has been concerned about the misconception that
"the media is putting out" and wants to show "that it's not just a bunch of
shaved head rednecks," Hum-phries said.
Organizers now claim 40 percent of it's still-unproven 956
volunteers are women and minorities and that the group includes "4
wheelchair bound paraplegics and 6 amputees."
That's a far cry from early March, when the news was white
supremacists would sneak into the group only to be met by the Mara
Salvatruchas, Latino gangsters who would be there to kill Minuteman
The group is now calling the effort a "political assembly" on
its Web site. That's very different from its initial November introduction
"Are YOU interested in spending up to 30 days along the
Arizona border as part of a blocking force against entry into the U.S. by
illegal aliens early next spring?"
Now, the volunteers will set up in groups of four to six
people far enough from the border that nobody can take shots at them,
Humphries said. Campfires will be lit up at night, as well. "Our whole goal
is deterrence," he said.
Organizers Chris Simcox of Tombstone and James Gilchrist of
Aliso Viejo, Calif., still decline to turn over any information that would
corroborate that 900-plus people have signed on. When asked Friday, Simcox
said only "no comment" and hung up.
In a February interview with the Arizona Daily Star, Simcox
said the FBI had been contacted to help weed out bad seeds and hate groups.
No such meetings ever took place, said FBI Special Agent Deborah McCarley.
Meanwhile, the rhetoric continues.
In Mexico, President Vicente Fox last week condemned the
Minuteman Project as an "immigrant hunter" group. He said Mexico would use
the law against the Minuteman Project.
In Arizona, Republican Senator Jon Kyl snapped back at Fox,
saying he agrees a civilian Border Patrol group is unacceptable but the
reasons for the group's existence are clear.
"President Fox does not appear to grasp the high level of
frustration over illegal immigration in states like Arizona, and his
pre-emptive threats to file lawsuits on behalf of those crossing the border
unlawfully is hardly helpful, since it presumes that illegal aliens have
more of a right to break American law than American citizens have to
peacefully assist authorities in enforcing it," Kyl stated in a news release
In Southern Arizona, the local chapter of the American Civil
Liberties Union is bringing on "legal observers" not to protect the
volunteers, but to protect illegal entrants from imprisonment, says director
Ray Ybarra. For his part, he could only corroborate that two people
including himself have actually signed on.
He doesn't believe the group will only monitor illegal border
"The kind of people they expect to show up and the action
they take when they see a migrant in the middle of the desert are two
different stories," he said.
"When you put a gun on your hip and you go out and try to do
law enforcement's job, that's unacceptable."
Humphries called the accusations ridiculous.
"They're much more on the side of the lawbreakers than they
are of us," he said.
Another border watch group, the American Border Patrol, is
watching from the sidelines and will only report on it for their Web site,
said founder Glenn Spencer.
Whether the boasted number of people actually sign up remains
to be seen, Spencer said.
What is important is that the idea of a group of volunteers
massing along the border is forcing the country to notice there's a problem
with illegal immigration, Spencer said.
"From that standpoint, it's already succeeded. I think the
politicians are feeling the heat. You have a verbal warfare going on along
the border," he said.