Homeland Security bars organizer of Minutemen

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Newspaper publisher Chris Simcox, who helped organize last month’s Minuteman vigils and promised more in the future, was denied access to a Department of Homeland Security press conference in Arizona last week.

Mr. Simcox, who writes for, edits and owns the Tombstone, Ariz., Tumbleweed, wants the American Civil Liberties Union to determine whether his First Amendment free-press rights were violated.

He said the Border Patrol refused to let him attend the Thursday press conference featuring Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who spoke in Douglas, Ariz., on the need for additional agents and increased technology to gain control of the Arizona border.

The press conference, at the Border Patrol’s field office in Douglas, was attended by Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, Arizona Republicans, and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat.

Mr. Simcox is requesting help from the ACLU, which stationed “legal observers” along the Arizona border during the Minutemen’s monthlong vigil in April to ensure that the civil rights of foreigners crossing illegally into the United States were not violated by Mr. Simcox and his volunteers.

“I showed up with press credentials and was held outside the gate,” Mr. Simcox said, adding that he was told by a Border Patrol agent that Chief Michael Nicely, who heads the agency’s Tucson sector, had ordered him barred from the press conference.

Mr. Simcox was one of two organizers of the Minuteman Project in Arizona in April, when more than 800 volunteers from throughout the United States set up observation posts along a 23-mile section of Arizona-Mexico border west of Douglas to spot and report illegal aliens.

Supervisors at the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector office did not support the project, saying it disrupted operations, unnecessarily tripped sensors and had little or no impact on the flow of illegal aliens.

Chief Nicely has said the Minutemen’s efforts against illegal immigration were “negligible” and they should leave border enforcement “to the professionals.”

Border Patrol spokesman Jose Garza in Tucson confirmed that Mr. Simcox was excluded from the press conference on the orders of Chief Nicely, but said it was “because of security reasons.”

He declined to elaborate and would not comment on whether Mr. Simcox was the potential security threat or whether anyone had made a threat against him.

“This was an operational security plan and, as a result, I cannot comment further,” he said.

Mr. Simcox questioned security as a reason for being denied access, saying there was “an overwhelming deployment of agents on the roads leading into one of the most secure Border Patrol offices in the country” and that other press members with credentials were “allowed in and out.”

“This is an obvious case of discrimination,” he said. “They pulled 50 agents off the line to provide security. While they blocked me, there is no doubt that at the same time, hundreds of illegal aliens had no difficulty gaining access to the United States.

“If I was banned because of the Minuteman Project connection, that is unfair because I had a right and the proper credentials to attend the press conference,” he said. “This is a perfect challenge for the ACLU.”

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