- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005

A retired Florida commercial fisherman who has stood vigil on the U.S.-Mexico border since July as part of the California Minutemen moved his base of operations over the weekend to a spot in Arizona where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed seven years ago.

Britt Craig, 56, whose two-tone brown van and pair of cats had become fixtures along the Mexican border near Campo, Calif., plans to watch for drug smugglers in Potrero Canyon, west of Nogales, Ariz., where Border Patrol Agent Alexander Kirpnick was fatally shot on June 3, 1998.

A combat-wounded Vietnam veteran from St. Augustine, Fla., Mr. Craig plans to travel during the next several weeks along the entire U.S.-Mexico border to stand vigil at each of the 27 places where a Border Patrol agent has been killed in the line of duty since 1986.

He was among a few armed civilian volunteers manning observation posts in October in the rugged, isolated canyons near Campo, 50 miles east of San Diego. He also took part in the original Minuteman Project rally in April in Arizona.

“If we really want to secure this border, we can do it. It’s as simple as that,” Mr. Craig said. “It’s just a matter of will.

“In the meantime, these Border Patrol agents, men and women, risk their lives every day to protect America,” he said. “We are out here to support and pay tribute to them for their efforts.”

Agent Kirpnick, 27, an immigrant from Ukraine, was killed after he and his partner responded to sensor traffic in a remote area of Potrero Canyon, a frequent transit point for smugglers moving marijuana and cocaine into the United States.

While on foot in the canyon, the two agents heard movement in the area and spotted five men carrying what appeared to be bags filled with drugs. The agents, both in uniform, identified themselves and moved forward to contact the suspects. Agent Kirpnick ordered the suspects to sit down. The men fired shots that hit Agent Kirpnick in the head.

Four Mexican nationals have been convicted on charges related to Agent Kirpnick’s death.

All had fled back to Mexico after the shooting but were arrested after joint investigations by the FBI and the Mexican Agencia Federal de Investigacion.

Mr. Craig, who lost an eye after stepping on a mine in Vietnam in 1967, said the presence of civilian volunteers along the border to assist federal immigration agents is essential in protecting the United States from terrorists and drug and alien smugglers.

“It’s a matter of sovereignty,” he said. “If you don’t claim your right to real estate, you lose it.”

The California Minutemen, organized by Vietnam veteran James Chase, has since changed its name to Border Watch and separated itself from the original Minuteman Project.

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