- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

Rush hour along the Capital Beltway will be more frustrating than usual the next few days if truckers follow through on a plan to form slow-moving, impassable convoys to protest Mexican trucking companies operating in the United States.

The Save America Fund, a California-based group critical of the presence of illegal aliens in the U.S., is staging a three-day rally on the Beltway by encouraging truckers to form side-by-side convoys and circle the highway at the posted 55 mph speed limit.

The protest, which began yesterday, is scheduled to continue through tomorrow’s evening rush hour. Similar demonstrations are being held throughout the country.

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The group is opposed to what it says is an influx of illegal aliens, and it wants a halt to a surge of trucks crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.

Calls to the organization’s office in California yesterday were not returned, but the group’s Web site states the plan is to cause “a complete backup of traffic.”

Sgt. Arthur Betts, a Maryland State Police spokesman, said the truckers didn’t stage a slowdown during yesterday’s morning rush hour.

Though the group’s tactics may irritate commuters, Sgt. Betts said there’s little that can be done and that police welcome the slower pace.

“We have no problem with that, we want them to do the speed limit,” he said.

However, patrols have been beefed up along the Beltway for the next few days in case the truckers take the slowdown too far, which could subject them to fines and penalties.

“If they’re purposely impeding traffic by going more than 10 miles below the posted speed limits, we have additional manpower out there to take care of it,” Sgt. Betts said.

John B. Townsend II, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, doubted the tactic would do much besides raise motorists’ ire.

“To take it out on unsuspecting motorists who may not even be familiar with the issue, it’ll just be a big traffic headache,” he said.

Mr. Townsend said he could not remember a group of protesters using roads or thoroughfares in such a manner.

“A protest is how America was founded — it’s part of the American way,” he said.

“I know that truckers have been deeply bothered by this issue for a long time. I’m not sure if this is the way to go about it, though.”

The group spurred truck drivers to use their 18-wheelers to span across “three or four or however many lanes the freeway has” to block traffic along the Beltway, which carries hundreds of thousands of vehicles daily.

The group’s intent is to draw attention to immigration issues and what it calls “blatant criminal disregard of our Constitution and federal laws by our elected officials and president in Washington.”

The group planned the event to run in coordination with the annual “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” demonstrations in the District calling for immigration reform.

Those events, which were planned to begin Sunday and end tomorrow were organized by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a D.C.-based group opposing illegal entry.

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