PALOMINAS, Ariz. — Minuteman Project organizers yesterday declared victory after shutting down a 20-mile stretch of the Arizona border to illegal aliens, but promised to rally “tens of thousands” of new volunteers for a blockade this fall on the U.S.-Mexico border from California to Texas.
“We did in our first 10 days what the federal government and Congress couldn’t do over the past 10 years,” Minuteman founder James T. Gilchrist told a cheering crowd of 100 volunteers gathered at a meeting in the organization’s guarded base camp mess hall.
“This has been a successful and bloodless effort, proving without a doubt that the physical presence of additional bodies along the border deters illegal immigration,” he said.
Mr. Gilchrist noted that fewer than 5,000 illegal aliens will be apprehended this month by the U.S. Border Patrol in the Minuteman Project’s 20-mile patrol area compared with 64,000 in April 2004 and 73,000 in April 2003.
Mr. Gilchrist, who will immediately begin recruitment efforts for the new nationwide border vigil, relinquished control of the Minuteman volunteers to the Civil Homeland Defense (CHD) organization of Arizona. CHD founder Chris Simcox said those volunteers would “remain on duty and on post” through the end of the month.
Nearly 800 Minuteman volunteers have been on duty at one time or another since the border vigil formally began April 1 to protest what organizers described as the lax immigration policies of Congress and the White House.
The U.S. Border Patrol has acknowledged making hundreds of arrests after receiving calls from the area being patrolled by the Minuteman volunteers, but has not confirmed whether any of those calls came from the volunteers.
“This has been a dream come true for the citizens of Arizona,” Mr. Simcox, publisher of a Tombstone, Ariz. newspaper, told the volunteers. “You were bold enough to stand up and tell the federal government that it’s not doing the job … that this border is not secure.
“But our efforts will continue, now and into the future,” he said. “We will package up what we’ve done here and do it again as a multistate border project. We will tell the government to do its job in securing this border or we will shut it down ourselves.”
Mexican officials, who feared that illegal border crossers would be abused by Minuteman volunteers and have tried to dissuade migrants from entering the United States until after the protest, have said migration in the Minuteman’s sector has decreased significantly.
Mr. Simcox warned the Minuteman volunteers that efforts might be made along the Arizona border to “discredit us in the 12 days we have remaining here,” and they should be prepared to deal properly with any challenge. He did not elaborate, but suggested that alien and drug smugglers might attempt to confront the volunteers to start an incident.
“Be prepared to abandon your post if you have to, rather than be trapped in a bad situation,” he said. “It will take only one self-serving fool to bring us down.”
A number of grass-roots civilian patrols have sprung up in other border states from California to Texas in response to the Minuteman Project here. Mr. Gilchrist said he hopes to rally the new patrols into a network of volunteers spreading from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, beginning as early as October.
Mr. Gilchrist, a retired California certified public accountant and combat-wounded Vietnam veteran, said he plans to stay in Arizona through the end of the month, but will appear with Mr. Simcox next week before the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus in Washington.
He said he would detail the success of the Minuteman Project to the committee, including the fact that increased border enforcement resulted in decreased illegal immigration and that the Mexican government — which moved illegals around the Minuteman-patrolled areas — can control immigration on its side of the border “if it wants to.”