- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

An organization of citizens in California, created last year to support the U.S. Border Patrol, will begin its own Minuteman-style vigil in August, using volunteers to spot illegal aliens in areas around San Diego, organizers said yesterday.

The Friends of the Border Patrol, led by Chairman Andy Ramirez, said 300 retired police officers, military personnel, pilots and other citizens have offered their services for the “FBP Border Watch,” which the organization hopes to expand eventually from the Pacific Ocean to the Arizona state line.

The volunteers, Mr. Ramirez said, also include people to patrol the border on horseback and a contractor who has offered to build a base camp for the operation.

“America was built on the spirit of volunteerism and community,” said Mr. Ramirez, who previously headed Save Our State, which helped defeat efforts by California lawmakers to authorize drivers licenses for illegal aliens. “Citizens volunteering to defend our nation in time of war and crisis is a time-honored American tradition.

“The American people are looking for ways to bolster Border Patrol numbers,” he said. “It’s clear they want more agents and secure borders.”

The planned California vigil is patterned after the Minuteman Project, during which more than 800 volunteers manned observation posts on a 23-mile stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border east and west of Naco, shutting down a flood of foreigners in the area — one of the most popular corridors for alien smugglers in the country.

Minuteman founder James T. Gilchrist, a retired California certified public accountant and combat-wounded Vietnam veteran, endorsed the California effort, offering his support and advice — including the need for law enforcement and military personnel to participate to help “weed people out who do not belong.”

Minuteman co-organizer Chris Simcox, a Tombstone, Ariz., newspaper publisher and founder of Arizona’s Civil Homeland Defense Corps., has said that “tens of thousands” of volunteers will be ready in October to control illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border from California to Texas.

“We will package up what we’ve done here and do it again as a multistate border project. We will tell the government to do its job in securing this border or we will shut it down ourselves,” he said.

Mr. Simcox also said this past week that the Minutemen are looking to help organize patrol efforts in four states along the U.S.-Canada border — Idaho, Michigan, North Dakota and Vermont.

“We shouldn’t have to be doing this,” he said Tuesday. “But at this point, we will continue to grow this operation — also to the northern border.”

Mr. Ramirez said a well-organized and planned operation around San Diego was essential “to ensure the safety of everyone involved, from Border Patrol agents, the volunteers, illegal aliens and even those counterprotesters seeking to disrupt the Border Watch.

“We have asked everyone that they participate with but one intention — to behave in a professional manner and follow the rule of law,” he said.

Advising the California volunteers will be Joseph N. Dassaro, former vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents all 11,000 nonsupervisory Border Patrol field agents.

Mr. Dassaro, a 13-year Border Patrol agent and head of the council’s Local 1613 in San Diego, quit the agency last week, saying a failed bureaucracy and lack of support from Congress and the Bush administration made it impossible for rank-and-file agents to secure the borders.

In a letter to Local 1613 members, Mr. Dassaro called the Border Patrol “one of the most inefficient and misleading agencies in the history of government.”

Officially, the Border Patrol was not supportive of the Minuteman Project, saying immigration enforcement was the responsibility of the federal government. It has cast similar doubts on the California proposal.

Numerous rank-and-file agents in Arizona, however, told The Washington Times they welcomed the volunteers and the nationwide attention their project brought to the problem of the porous southern border.

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