- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

OUTPOST 4, On the U.S.-Mexico Border — It was supposed to be a little more glamorous than this: Standing watch on America’s southern border, ready to spot and report a flood of illegal aliens coming into the United States through Arizona.

Nobody told the Minuteman Project volunteers about the unrelenting wind, the biting sand, the ever-present dust or the bone-chilling cold at night. The high desert after dark can be an unforgiving place, often moonless and always pitch black.

“It can be very nasty out here, that’s for sure,” said Roy Lasley, 65, a retired businessman from Midland, Texas, who hunkered down next to his pickup to protect himself from the raging wind.

“It was the right thing to do, and I’m not going to let a little weather drive me off,” he said of his commitment to the project’s 30-day border vigil to protest what the volunteers see as the government’s failure to control illegal immigration.

At an elevation of about 4,400 feet, this area of southeastern Arizona couldn’t be more remote. But at eight observation posts that begin just east of Naco, Ariz., along Border Road, which separates Arizona from Mexico, two to four men and a few women gather for 24-hour shifts.

They eat sandwiches, nibble on snacks, drink water and coffee, talk about their families and their grandchildren and about the effect of illegal immigration, yards from a ragged barbed-wire fence that has holes cut in it corresponding to well-worn trails leading out of Mexico.

Many have posted their state flags in the desert soil, along with a variety of placards, which say among other things: “We Support our Border Patrol Agents” and “Secure this Border, Mr. Bush.”

“We must protect this border, or we are not going to be able to ensure the nation’s future security,” said volunteer Lloyd Hockfeldt, 64, a retired water well contractor from Napa Valley, Calif., as he scanned the horizon with binoculars.

“I believe in this and that’s why I’m here, no matter what.”

The numerous Border Patrol agents who pass by the volunteers often flash a thumbs up, a rare sign of support for the volunteers President Bush referred to as “vigilantes.” Last week, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, countered the president’s characterization.

“I’m not sure the president meant that. I think that they’re providing an excellent service,” Mr. DeLay told editors and reporters of The Washington Times. “It’s no different than neighborhood-watch programs, and I appreciate them doing it. …”

Both U.S. and Mexican law-enforcement officials have credited the Minuteman Project for stemming the flow of illegals in a sector where more than 40 percent of the 1.15 million illegal aliens caught by the Border Patrol were taken into custody last year.

Bob Wright, the owner of a butane factory in Hobbs, N.M., who helped scout out the observation posts, said the “situation on this border is a tragedy, both for America and for Mexico.”

Mr. Wright leaned against the fence and looked out over the Mexican desert. “Why does this have to be? Why can’t the Mexican government do something to make it economically possible for its citizens to stay home?” he said.

Alan Phillips, a retired corrections officer from Michigan who calls Maryvale, Tenn., home, described himself as a “believer” in the cause and plans to stay for the full 30 days. He also is the sector boss for one of the Minuteman shifts, patrolling along Border Road.

“I am very proud of the men and women who are out here,” Mr. Phillips said. “They stand their shifts despite the many challenges, whether from the weather, the media or those who called them racists and other things.”

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