End of Minuteman tour marked by confrontations

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Members of the Minuteman Project marked the end of their 13-city campaign tour for immigration reform yesterday, drawing the ire of counterprotesters who likened the group’s practices to those of the Ku Klux Klan.

At a rally outside the U.S. Capitol, the Minuteman members said illegal aliens are “invading” the U.S. and cautioned lawmakers who are debating immigration-reform legislation that an unsatisfactory bill might lead to their defeat on Election Day.

“The U.S. Senate is about to shove a veiled amnesty … down the throats of American citizens,” the group’s founder, Jim Gilchrist, told about 70 supporters who waved U.S. flags and held signs that read “Enforce Our Laws” and “Secure Our Border.”

Mr. Gilchrist said that by the year 2025 illegal aliens will outnumber U.S. registered voters if President Bush’s guest-worker plan becomes law.

“Minutemen and women stand your ground,” he told the supporters of the group, whose sister group, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, patrols the U.S.-Mexican border in search of illegals who cross the border. “We will win this contest.”

During the hour-long rally, about 50 protesters from groups such as Immigration Rights Now, FMLN Maryland and DC Statehood Green Party shouted slogans through bullhorns such as “No Minutemen. No KKK. No Fascist USA!”

Mr. Gilchrist responded by telling them to “Get out of my face.”

The verbal exchange became so heated that police had to separate the groups. Police in helmets stood inside a ring of yellow police tape and built a human wall between the groups as the Minuteman members and counterprotesters yelled obscenities and insults at one another.

Holding a banner that read “No One is Illegal,” counterprotester Tariq Khan, 28, called the Minuteman’s border patrols “racist and xenophobic.”

“Ten years ago, it would have been considered KKK activity,” said Mr. Khan, a student at George Mason University.

No arrests were made and no one was injured.

The Minuteman Project began its 10-day caravan on May 3 to bring awareness of the dangers of illegal immigration.

The caravan began in Los Angeles and stopped in Richmond before arriving in the District yesterday.

The rally outside the Capitol came a day after Senate leaders announced that they had reached a deal on the stalled immigration-reform legislation and said that they would try to pass by Memorial Day a bill aimed at granting the nation’s estimated 10 million to 12 million illegal aliens a path to citizenship.

The news delighted pro-immigration leaders who on Wednesday plan to hold a “March on Washington” on the Mall to press lawmakers to pass such legislation and to grant a moratorium on recent immigration raids in the meantime.

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