Friday, July 15, 2005

More than 15,000 volunteers will man observation posts and conduct foot and horseback patrols this fall along the Mexican border from Texas to California and in seven states along the Canadian border in a new Minuteman vigil to protest what organizers call the government’s lax immigration enforcement policies.

Chris Simcox, who heads the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, said volunteers from throughout the country who are “concerned that the U.S. government must be made to act and take control of our borders” are signing up in record numbers for the new monthlong patrols set to begin Oct. 1.

“We want a secure U.S. border and an end to the blatant disregard of the rule of law regarding illegal immigration,” Mr. Simcox said. “Nearly four years after the September 11 attacks on America, we should be doing a better job of securing our borders.

“Our government is more concerned with securing the borders of foreign lands than securing the borders of the United States,” he said.

Mr. Simcox, publisher of a Tombstone, Ariz., newspaper and founder of the Civil Homeland Defense Corps in Arizona, coordinated the “Minuteman Project” border vigil in that state in April that for a 30-day period shut down a 23-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border to illegal immigration.

He said the new volunteers will be deployed in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas and that other Minuteman groups will patrol the border regions of Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Vermont and Washington. They will observe and report to the U.S. Border Patrol, but not detain, those attempting to illegally cross into the United States, he said.

In Arizona, more than 850 volunteers stood watch near Naco to reduce the flow of illegal aliens in one of the nation’s most-traveled immigration corridors. Their goal was to show that increased manpower on the border would effectively deter illegal immigration.

During the 30-day vigil, the number of apprehensions by Border Patrol agents in the targeted area dropped from more than 500 a day to fewer than 15.

“We’ve written letters, sent faxes and e-mails, made countless calls and held town hall meetings about what is not just a public safety issue but a national security concern,” Mr. Simcox said, describing his group’s message to the government. “But we’re done waiting for you to do the job of securing our borders.

“While you’re making up your mind about what to do, we’re going to continue our Minuteman vigils,” he said. “We intend to defend our property and our country.”

Although Border Patrol supervisors in Arizona discounted the Minuteman efforts, saying apprehension totals declined because the Mexican government deployed military and police south of the targeted area, field agents credited the volunteers with cutting the flow of illegal aliens.

Residents thanked the Minutemen in a full-page newspaper ad “for doing what our government won’t — close the border to illegal aliens.”

The National Border Patrol Council, Local 2544 in Tucson, Ariz., endorsed the Minuteman Project, saying its members — about 2,000 field agents — did not have “one single complaint from a rank-and-file agent in this sector about the Minutemen.”

“Every report we’ve received indicates these people are very supportive of the rank-and-file agents; they’re courteous. Many of them are retired firefighters, cops and other professionals, and they’re not causing us any problems whatsoever,” the council said.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also praised the Minuteman Project, saying the group did “a terrific job.”

Mr. Simcox said, “Ordinary citizens sitting in lawn chairs stopped a flood of illegal aliens” during the Arizona vigil, adding, “If the country’s elected leaders will not defend our nation’s borders, American citizens will.”

Since its Arizona beginnings, the Minuteman organization has mounted what it calls a national campaign and has hired lawyers, organized into separate corporations, hired a District-based public relations firm and began a vigorous fundraising effort. The organization’s leadership also has lobbied members of Congress for immigration reform.

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