- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2005

A Hispanic advocacy group is challenging plans by the Herndon Minutemen to videotape and report findings on illegal aliens at the town’s day-laborer center, describing such actions as racial profiling.

Members of the League of United Latin American Citizens say there is no way to distinguish legal immigrants from illegal aliens.

“If I sit in a corner and dress as [an illegal alien], they’d probably label me an immigrant,” Annandale resident Noelia Olivera, 22, said after a contentious organizational meeting of the Minutemen Thursday.

Loundon County resident Ricardo Cabellos, 30, suggested the Minutemen lobby Congress for better immigration enforcement rather than create an outlet for potential extremists or intimidate people who migrate to the United States in search of better lives.

“I admit [illegal immigration enforcement] is an issue, but this is not the solution for it,” he said.

Herndon-area Minutemen plan to videotape and photograph employers hiring illegal aliens at a recently approved day-laborer center, follow them to work sites and report them to the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and state employment agencies.

The group also plans to monitor zoning violations, identify cases in which absentee landlords rent to illegal aliens and investigate instances of city officials offering public services to illegal aliens.

Modeling their approach on Houston’s “Operation Spotlight,” the Minutemen aim to hinder illegal immigration in Herndon by cracking down on employers, landlords and city officials who illegally aid aliens.

The larger, Arizona-based Minutemen group has thousands of civilian members patrolling borders from California to Texas and in eight northern states this month through the “Secure Our Borders” program.

The group encourages illegal aliens to obtain documentation, organizers said.

About five of the roughly 60 Herndon-area residents at the Herndon Minutemen meeting walked out after an argument ensued between the opponents and organizer George Taplin.

The meeting became tense as Mr. Cabellos expressed his opposition to the group and a woman behind him shouted, “Sit down and shut up!”

Mr. Taplin, one of six residents named in a lawsuit against the town’s taxpayer-funded day-laborer center, said volunteers must undergo criminal and background checks to uncover any affiliations with extremist groups.

He said chapter members are not allowed to make racial remarks or gestures to the employers or laborers, or to respond to taunts. Such behavior is prohibited by the Minutemen code of conduct. Any member found guilty of violating that code would be dismissed, he said.

Minutemen will not confront any suspected aliens, Mr. Taplin said.

“Our weapons are our cameras. Our weapons are our common sense. Our real weapons are that we’re following the law,” he said.

Private investigator Deborah Aylward offered to work as a consultant to the group, out of concern that members who follow employers and others could face stalking charges.

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