Monday, April 25, 2005

More than 200 people rallied across the street from the White House yesterday to protest the immigration enforcement policies of the Bush administration and Congress, vowing to take their message nationwide and secure the U.S. borders themselves.

“We will not compromise and we will not go away,” said Chris Simcox, a Tombstone, Ariz., newspaper publisher and founder of Civil Homeland Defense Corps in Arizona who helped organize the “Minuteman Project,” a border vigil by hundreds of volunteers that shut down a 20-mile stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border to illegal aliens.

“We are demanding, not asking, for secure and safe borders. We are demanding, not asking, for the enforcement of existing immigration laws,” Mr. Simcox told the cheering crowd. “We will remain on duty until we are relieved by Humvees filled with National Guard or U.S. military troops.”

Mr. Simcox’s comments were part of the opening salvo of a six-day Washington lobbying campaign by advocates of stronger immigration controls. The campaign will include rallies, press conferences, meetings with members of Congress and testimony Wednesday by Mr. Simcox and others before the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus.

Hailed as “Hold Their Feet to the Fire 2005,” the campaign is aimed at demonstrating nationwide opposition to the immigration enforcement policies of Congress and the White House, President Bush’s guest worker program and the issuance of drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens. It also seeks a crackdown on employers who hire illegals, and calls for the resumption of interior sweeps by the Border Patrol.

The campaign was put together by Roger Hedgecock, former San Diego mayor and now a radio talk-show host. Rep. Thomas G. Tancredo, Colorado Republican and a vocal proponent of immigration enforcement, is the keynote speaker at a dinner tomorrow.

Yesterday, as the Lafayette Park crowd raised placards and chanted “Thank you, Minutemen,” Mr. Simcox reported that 15,000 new volunteers are ready to begin civilian patrols in October of the U.S.-Mexico border from California to Texas, with others being set for limited vigils in Michigan, Idaho and Vermont.

“The Minuteman Project proved a physical presence on the border will deter illegal immigration,” Mr. Simcox told The Washington Times. “It also proved the Mexican government, when it wants to, can control immigration on its side of the border.”

The Minuteman volunteers, whose vigil will continue through Saturday, have been directly responsible for the apprehension by the Border Patrol of 315 illegal aliens. A total of 820 volunteers completed a four-hour training session and spent at least one eight-hour shift on the border east and west of Naco, Ariz. - one of the most frequently traveled corridors for illegal aliens in the country.

U.S. and Mexican government officials, both of whom were critical of the volunteers, acknowledged that illegal alien traffic in the 20-mile area patrolled by the Minuteman volunteers dropped by more than half.

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