- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

NACO, Ariz. — Dozens of would-be illegal aliens sat huddled in the desert less than a mile south of the U.S.-Mexico border late Sunday night, stopped by a blockade of civilian volunteers protesting the government’s immigration enforcement policies.

Invisible in the pitch-black Arizona night, the aliens were detectable only through infrared and night-vision equipment set up by the Minuteman Project volunteers along a three-mile stretch of an isolated border road just east of here.

“I have been sitting here night after night waiting for this moment to come, when people from all across the country would stand with us shoulder to shoulder to send a message to Congress and the White House that if you want our vote, secure this border,” said Chris Simcox, one of the Minuteman organizers.

So far, 118 illegal aliens have been arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol based on calls from Minuteman volunteers along a 20-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border, where limited patrols began Friday.

“This is not about racism or hate, but the rule of law,” said Bob Wright of Hobbs, N.M., who spent the weekend helping to map out the group’s observation posts.

“I would hope the two governments would try to do something. … What is happening to these people who risk their lives to come into the United States is a travesty.”

The Minuteman observation posts are set at half-mile intervals at locations identified as frequent crossing points for illegals. The posts consist of trucks and sport utility vehicles, where the volunteers — under a variety of U.S. and state flags — scan the border through strands of a well-worn barbed-wire fence that separates the United States and Mexico.

Although the Minuteman vigil has fallen significantly short of the expected 1,200 volunteers — only about 200 have shown up — they have had an impact by cutting the average crossings in this southeastern Arizona corridor by more than half, U.S. and Mexican officials say.

U.S. law-enforcement authorities said many illegals are being routed around the Minuteman vigil by smugglers who have moved temporarily to other areas, including El Paso, Texas.

Mexican officials also acknowledged that they have increased the number of police and humanitarian workers in the areas being patrolled by the Minuteman volunteers to protect migrants headed north and to offer assistance to those in trouble.

Dottie Dalton, a 66-year-old Marietta, Ga., woman who traveled to the Minuteman vigil to show her support, described herself as ?part of a neighborhood watch, trying to protect everyone.”

But the volunteers will be gone in a month, and the illegal border crossings here — where 40 percent of the 1.15 million aliens caught last year by the U.S. Border Patrol were apprehended — are expected to resume.

“The Border Patrol is doing the best it can with what it has, but it needs more people. I hope we can get that word out,” said Paul Farmer of Pittsburg, Calif.

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