- The Washington Times - Monday, April 11, 2005

NACO, Ariz. — Minuteman Project volunteers, manning outposts along a 20-mile stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border, have managed to block a major corridor used by migrants headed north.

Those intent on illegally entering the United States, however, found new routes east and west of here.

U.S. and Mexican law-enforcement officials, along with immigrant rights groups, yesterday reported a significant increase in the number of foreigners crossing into the United States at Douglas, 20 miles east of here, and at Nogales, 80 miles west, since the Minuteman Project volunteers set up their 24-hour observation posts March 30.

The Mexican government said the number of migrants attempting to cross the border in the regions south of here dropped by half.

“What we sought to demonstrate to Congress and the White House was that an increase in the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents in high traffic areas would significantly impact on illegal immigration,” said Minuteman Project co-organizer James T. Gilchrist, a retired California certified public accountant.

“While it is still too early to say specifically what the numbers mean, they certainly suggest we were right — that the physical presence of additional people on the border can make a difference,” Mr. Gilchrist said at the volunteers’ guarded command post.

The volunteers focused on the border area near Naco because it had become one of the highest traffic corridors for border-crossing illegal aliens, he said. Last year, more than 40 percent of the 1.15 million illegal aliens caught by the Border Patrol were taken into custody in this southern Arizona region, known as the Tucson sector.

Minuteman organizers and volunteers say they are upset that President Bush authorized funding for a total of 210 new Border Patrol agents for fiscal 2006, instead of the 2,000 new agents approved in the intelligence overhaul bill that he signed in December. Most of the 2,000 agents were to be assigned to Arizona.

“The control of this border depends on numbers — plain and simple,” Mr. Gilchrist said.

Since the Minuteman volunteers set up observation posts here, Mexican police, humanitarian workers and military personnel have diverted migrants headed north from the border areas south of Naco and the nearby Coronado National Monument, two major migration corridors.

The Sonora State Preventive Police were working with the Mexican military and Grupa Beta, a government-funded humanitarian organization, to route would-be migrants to Aqua Prieta, just across the border from Douglas, warning the aliens that “armed vigilantes” were waiting to hurt them.

Smugglers, known as “coyotes,” diverted operations in the past several days to move the northbound migrants through Douglas and Nogales, not wanting to confront the Minuteman volunteers, Mexican authorities said.

The smugglers make an average of $1,000 per person brought illegally into the United States, officials said.

Mr. Bush has said most migrants are entering the United States to find jobs, a position echoed by Mexican President Vicente Fox. Mr. Bush has proposed a guest-worker program that would give legal status to millions of illegal aliens living and working in the United States, but Congress has not brought up the proposal for debate.

One of those job seekers is Jose Anjel, a 42-year-old Mexican national who was waiting in the darkness near a railroad terminal in Nogales, Ariz., near the border. Mr. Anjel was hoping to catch a northbound freight train headed further into the United States.

Speaking in both Spanish and English, Mr. Anjel said he needed a job in the United States to provide for his family. He said he had been in the United States on several occasions, working in construction and fathering two children.

Mr. Anjel said he recently returned to Mexico to visit his brother, who has cancer, and had been caught earlier in the week by U.S. authorities trying to re-enter the United States. Shortly after the interview, he and two companions were caught again as they hopped a train. He was deported, but U.S. authorities said they expect him to try again.

Minuteman co-organizer Chris Simcox yesterday said that during the first week of the operation, nearly 300 illegal aliens have been spotted by the volunteers, reported to the Border Patrol and apprehended during the first week of operation.

Mr. Simcox, publisher of a Tombstone, Ariz., newspaper and founder of the state’s Civil Homeland Defense organization, also said there had been no reported incidents of violence involving the volunteers, despite concerns raised by civil and human rights organizations.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups had predicted the volunteers would abuse illegal aliens they confronted at the border.

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