- The Washington Times - Friday, April 15, 2005

NACO, Ariz. — The Minuteman Project border vigil, which has nearly shut down a 20-mile corridor of the U.S.-Mexico border to illegal aliens, has spawned the creation of similar civilian patrols from California to Texas.

One of the new patrols, known as the “Yuma Patriots,” was scheduled to begin operations today along the U.S.-Mexico border south of Yuma, Ariz., to curb rising numbers of illegal aliens flooding into southwestern Arizona.

“This is not about being racist or persecuting someone for the color of his skin,” said Flash Sharrar, organizer of the Yuma Patriots, which will follow the Minuteman model of not engaging border crossers but reporting them to the Border Patrol.

“It is about this country being overrun. … It is our civic duty as citizens of Yuma to stop this crisis,” he said.

The U.S. Border Patrol has acknowledged receiving 317 calls from Naco and Douglas, the site of the Minuteman vigil, that have resulted in 846 arrests of illegal aliens, but has not confirmed whether any of those calls came from the volunteers.

Other new civilian patrols, not affiliated with the Minuteman Project, are preparing to be up and running over the next several months in California, New Mexico and Texas. Officials familiar with the California effort believe volunteers will be patrolling the border in San Ysidro, Calif., by June.

Minuteman co-organizer Chris Simcox said the project had “ignited a nationwide wave of support,” adding that the organization hoped to begin a fundraising effort to help finance civilian patrols.

Mr. Simcox’s Minuteman partner, James T. Gilchrist, said several Border Patrol field agents told him they “tremendously appreciate” what the volunteers are doing to bring attention to the porous border.

He said the agents, all of whom asked not to be identified, reported that since the volunteers arrived, apprehensions in the 20-mile area where the Minutemen have set up observation posts have dropped from 1,000 a day to less than 20.

Before the beginning of the Minuteman vigil, volunteers — more than 600 of whom have completed a four-hour training session and spent at least one eight-hour shift on the border — were accused of being armed racists prone to violence. No incidents have occurred during the first two weeks of operation.

In Yuma, Mr. Sharrar told reporters there has been a dramatic rise in the number of illegal aliens moving through the area in the past several months. He said increased efforts by the Border Patrol in southeastern Arizona — a major corridor for illegal immigration — have pushed the illegals into Yuma.

Earlier this year, the Border Patrol reported that agents in the Yuma sector arrested more than 23,000 illegal aliens from October to December, the first quarter of fiscal 2005. That compared with 8,230 arrests in the same quarter last year, a 180 percent increase.

About 50 people are expected to take part in the Yuma patrols. They have been instructed to observe suspected illegals and report them to the Border Patrol on their cell phones or radios.

Officially, the Border Patrol has not been supportive of the Minuteman Project, saying they should have left border protection to the professionals and that they had interfered with operations by tripping sensors in the area.

But Mr. Gilchrist noted that residents in the area have been supportive and many have stopped by to talk with the volunteers and others have brought them home-made cookies.

Several homeowners along the border have told The Washington Times that the presence of the Minuteman volunteers had resulted in the first time in years that their dogs were quiet and they could get a full night’s sleep.

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