Wednesday, April 13, 2005

PALOMINAS, Ariz. — The chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus yesterday declared the “Minuteman Project” border vigil a success and invited its organizers to Washington next week to meet with members of Congress.

“Congratulations on your immensely successful Minuteman Project,” Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, said in a letter. “By all reports you have accomplished your primary mission, which was to draw public attention to the deplorable and unacceptable conditions on our borders.

“You have demonstrated that a physical presence on the border will deter illegal crossings, and the world can now see this,” he said.

By the U.S. Border Patrol’s count, the apprehensions so far this month are down by more than 50 percent.

Mr. Tancredo also said Mexican military units have diverted migrants east and west away from a 20-mile stretch of Arizona-Mexico border being patrolled by the Minutemen, “showing that the Mexican government can control the exits if it chooses to do.”

Minuteman organizer James T. Gilchrist last night told a gathering of the Minuteman volunteers at the organization’s command center that Mr. Tancredo had encouraged him to shut down the project, saying the mission had been “accomplished.” But Mr. Gilchrist said although he and co-organizer Chris Simcox would travel to Washington next week, the Minuteman patrols would continue until April 30, as has been planned.

“We’re staying until the 30th,” he told the Minuteman gathering, which responded with applause and whoops of support. “We will stay on the line and adhere to our long-standing policy of no contact and no confrontation with any illegal aliens seeking to enter the United States.”

The Minuteman volunteers, operating from 16 observation posts east and west of Naco, have spotted and reported to the Border Patrol more than 500 foreigners crossing into this country illegally since limited patrols began March 30.

Minuteman volunteers patrolled the 20-mile border segment 24 hours per day, seven days per week, working in three rotating shifts.

The observation posts included eight locations east of Naco along a dirt road separating Arizona and Mexico. Eight other posts were located along Highway 92 west of here at the base of the Coronado mountains — a favorite smuggling corridor for both aliens and drugs.

U.S. law-enforcement authorities said several hundred foreigners are thought to be holed up in the mountains unable to make connections with smugglers along the highway because of the Minutemen.

There have been no corroborated reports of violence involving the volunteers and the illegals. One Mexican national complained that he been detained illegally by Minuteman volunteers, but the accusation was ruled unfounded by the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department and the Mexican Consulate in Douglas.

That alien was photographed wearing a T-shirt that said, “Bryan Barton caught me crossing illegally into the United States and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” Mr. Barton was dismissed by Mr. Gilchrist because of the incident and escorted out of the Bible college here where volunteers are staying.

In his letter, Mr. Tancredo said he wanted Mr. Gilchrist and Mr. Simcox to meet with him and other members of the Immigration Reform Caucus.

“I want you to tell the Congress the story of the Minuteman Project and what you accomplished,” Mr. Tancredo said. “Congratulations on a job well done.”

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