- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2006

THREE POINTS, Ariz. — They were better organized this year and more strategically deployed. Much of the electronic and communications equipment they desperately needed but didn’t have last year was in place.

And in the past 30 days, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps reported more than 2,000 aliens trying to sneak illegally into the United States from observation posts on the U.S.-Mexico border and in several areas along the Canadian border, about 40 percent of whom were apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol.

But the Minuteman’s monthlong “Secure our Borders” vigil, which wrapped up yesterday, received little press attention — largely because of the group’s decision to assign its civilian volunteers to posts on private property, where public and press access was limited. The competition from the immigration debate in Congress and the massive street rallies nationwide in response to that debate also crowded out the press attention.

“But the people who matter, the illegal aliens and those who bring them across the border who have had to change their tactics because of us, know we’re out here, and that’s what’s important,” said Bill Foust, one of the Minuteman’s security bosses at the organization’s remote desert base camp 15 miles south of here.

“And the Border Patrol field agents know we’re here, and many of them have gone out of their way to thank us for bringing needed attention to the problem of illegal immigration,” said Mr. Foust, an Arizona resident and a veteran of three 30-day patrols in the past year. “It is us who should be thanking them for what they do every day for America despite often being outmanned and outgunned.”

More than 4,000 Minuteman civilian volunteers signed up to participate in the border vigil, each paying a $50 registration fee that included a criminal background check. Those who showed up were assigned to observation posts in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Washington state, New Hampshire and New York.

Minuteman President Chris Simcox applauded about 75 volunteers gathered for closing ceremonies at the organization’s campsite south of here yesterday, telling them they were “showing Americans what America is all about” and “standing up for our country.”

But the organization has turned its attention to the construction of a border fence on land donated by private owners and built by contractors who have offered their time and expertise. He said six landowners and two construction companies so far have partnered with the organization to break ground and begin construction on a state-of-the-art security fence on the Southwest border.

Mr. Simcox said groundbreaking for the fence will be in Arizona on Memorial Day, unless President Bush deploys National Guard or Reserve troops “to immediately secure the out-of-control southern border.”

Saying America’s porous borders leave the country “vulnerable to terrorist infiltration and an unprecedented crime wave caused by drug smugglers, rapists, thieves, human traffickers and murderers,” he said the construction companies have offered to inaugurate groundbreaking, coordinate volunteer construction crews and donate the use of heavy construction equipment.

The Arizona border has the nation’s most popular illegal-immigration corridors, where more than half of the 1.2 million illegal aliens apprehended last year by the Border Patrol were caught.

Mr. Bush has referred to Minuteman volunteers as “vigilantes,” and Border Patrol officials in Washington have downplayed their significance — saying the group should leave patrolling the border “to the professionals.” Field agents, however, have praised the Minuteman, and many stopped by the campsite here to thank the volunteers.

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