- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Volunteers will man observation posts along the U.S.-Mexico border in California beginning tomorrow to spot illegal aliens and drug smugglers with plans to stay until they are relieved by U.S. Border Patrol agents or National Guard troops, an organizer said yesterday.

The vigil, timed to begin on Mexican Independence Day, Sept. 16, was called to highlight what Friends of the Border Patrol, which organized the event, said is the failure of Congress and the White House to secure the U.S. border.

“Our borders are not under the operational control of our government. Instead, they are controlled by alien and drug smugglers,” said Andy Ramirez, head of the California-based Friends of the Border Patrol. “Our mission is to provide a safe living environment for our local citizens until the U.S. government provides the security for which it is responsible.”

More than 200 civilian volunteers, including former Border Patrol agents, retired police officers, military personnel and pilots, initially will participate in the patrols, building to as many as 3,000 as the vigil continues. They are expected to establish observation posts near Calexico, Calif., and at the Border Field State Park, north of Tijuana, Mexico.

The California border protest has been endorsed by the Minuteman Civil Defense Project, which plans its own patrols along the Mexican border from California to Texas in October. The Minutemen, however, will not participate with the Friends of the Border Patrol in their effort.

Mr. Ramirez said the California volunteers want to call attention to the “real plight of those who live along the border who are being overrun by illegal aliens and drug smugglers.”

The pending patrols are not without controversy, as several civic and community groups have condemned the volunteers. Numerous immigration-reform organizations and others also plan to picket the volunteers. The Calexico City Council voted unanimously last week to condemn the presence of civilian volunteers in their city.

Some groups have accused the volunteers of being racists — a charge Mr. Ramirez denied.

Border Patrol Agent Chris Bauder, who serves as president of Local 1613 of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents San Diego-area agents, said the volunteers would “just push [the illegal alien] traffic to other areas of the border.”

“Everybody is talking about controlling the border, but you can’t control the border until you control the source of the problem, and the source is the employment issue,” Mr. Bauder said.

Mr. Ramirez said his organization has been operational since July, when it began background investigations and a series of training sessions.

“For those who may stand in opposition to our border watch, they need to realize that this is about America and putting the most important special-interest group of all in our top priority and that is supporting and defending the American people,” he said.

“Both parties know that the Southwestern U.S.-Mexican border is a mess,” he said. “Citizens volunteering to defend our nation in time of war and crisis is a time-honored American tradition.”

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