- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2005

FALFURRIAS, Texas — Smugglers who typically ferry loads of illegal aliens and drugs through an 18-mile corridor here every day have moved elsewhere.

“They’ve spotted and tracked our observation posts with their infrared and [Global Positioning System] equipment and they don’t want any part of us,” Dr. Michael Vickers yesterday told a crowd of Minuteman Civil Defense Corps members, who four days ago began a nationwide border vigil to protest immigration policies they say endanger the United States.

Now, the Minutemen will counter.

They will adjust more than 500 civilian volunteers assigned to foot and horseback patrols at scattered observation posts, called “laundry lines,” along the Highway 281 corridor, which the U.S. Border Patrol considers a major alien- and drug-smuggling route.

“Hundreds of them cross over my property every day, cutting through or digging under the fences,” said Dr. Vickers, a veterinarian, community leader and Republican state committee member.

Dr. Vickers has allowed the Minutemen to set up a makeshift headquarters on his 2,000-acre cattle ranch, which is about 70 miles north of the Mexican border, and persuaded his neighbors to open up about 100,000 acres of private land to the protesters.

Concerned about the threat of terrorism, rising violence, a flood of illegal immigration, and the ongoing damage and mounds of trash on the ranches, Dr. Vickers expects that total soon will grow to more than 800,000 acres.

“Our country is being invaded and it’s about time something is done about it,” said Dr. Vickers, who remains a close friend to his Texas A&M; classmate Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican.

The patrols here began Saturday as part of a nationwide vigil by the Minutemen from Texas to California along the Mexican border and in eight states along the Canadian border. It was scheduled to run for 30 days, but now has been extended indefinitely.

Al Garza, president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps of Texas, said the civilian volunteers will stay at their posts until relieved by the National Guard. The decision is supported by Dr. Vickers, who said he is looking to recruit more than 1,000 Minuteman volunteers to man the Highway 281 corridor permanently.

“Congress and the White House need to wake up to the fact that we are here to stay,” Mr. Garza said during an interview at the Minuteman group’s Falfurrias camp. “We intend to be that 800-pound gorilla until they act to restore security on our nation’s borders. We want to know when the rule of law [is] going to be reinstated.”

Participants will report to the U.S. Border Patrol but will not detain those attempting to cross illegally into the United States.

A Marine veteran who served in combat during the Vietnam War, Mr. Garza described the number of posts and patrols here as a “carefully guarded secret” because of pending death threats, including some from the violent street gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.

But, he said, the sites were scouted out by senior members of the organization after meetings with local law-enforcement authorities, the Border Patrol and area landowners. He described the senior Minuteman officials who attended the meetings as mostly retired military personnel and retired law-enforcement authorities.

The announced figure of 500 could not be independently confirmed, but dozens of vehicles and campsites were observed at the organization’s staging area on the Vickers property, about a mile off Highway 281. Unlike the Minuteman group’s initial border vigil in Arizona in April, press access to the volunteers and the observation posts was heavily controlled.

“Congress and the White House would have you believe that the border cannot be secured,” Mr. Garza said. “But we proved in Arizona that a physical presence on the border will deter illegal immigration.”

Mr. Garza was one of the field coordinators of the 30-day Minuteman Project in Arizona, where 857 civilian volunteers shut down a 23-mile section of the U.S.-Mexican border to illegal aliens and drug smugglers.

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