PALOMINAS, Ariz. — Minuteman Project volunteers, during limited weekend patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border here, rescued a tired and thirsty Mexican who had become separated from a group trying to illegally enter the United States.
The volunteers, who formally begin extensive patrols along a 20-mile section of the border today to protest Bush administration immigration-enforcement policies, found the man on land owned by Miracle Valley Bible College, where the Minuteman organization has set up a command post.
The unidentified man was described as dehydrated and emaciated. He was turned over by volunteers to U.S. Border Patrol officials and later was returned to Mexico.
It was one of two weekend encounters by Minuteman volunteers with illegal aliens, neither of which resulted in the violent confrontation predicted by some civil liberties and human rights organizations.
In a separate incident, the volunteers spotted 18 illegal aliens entering the United States here and called the Border Patrol, which responded in minutes and took the aliens into custody.
Ray Ybarra, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Arizona, said there had been no incidents of violence or suspected abuse of the aliens during limited patrols by the volunteers Saturday and yesterday.
Mr. Ybarra, who manned a seven-person ACLU observation site on the border south of Bisbee — within shouting distance of two Minuteman patrol posts — said “everything was going very well.”
“We’re here to protect the civil rights of everyone involved and, so far, everything has gone very nicely,” he told The Washington Times during a late-night interview on the U.S.-Mexico border east of Naco, which is separated by a barbed-wire fence that has been cut in numerous spots.
Mexican humanitarian groups, who patrolled their side of the border late into the night, told The Times several people had been spotted huddled in the desert south of the U.S. border — apparently halted by the presence of the Minuteman volunteers.
Volunteers working a patrol post west of the San Pedro River, south of here, confirmed yesterday that they spotted two separate groups of aliens, totaling about 25 people, heading north who turned back when they saw the Minuteman patrols.
The volunteers, some of whom are armed, have been accused by some civil rights groups and other immigration activists of being racists looking for an excuse to confront illegal aliens.
Border Patrol officials have said the presence of armed volunteers on the border make an already dangerous situation worse, although several field agents said they welcomed them — as long as they operate within the law.
Minuteman organizers James T. Gilchrist, a retired California certified public accountant, and Chris Simcox, publisher of the Tombstone, Ariz., Tumbleweed, said the volunteers have been warned against any confrontation.
Mr. Gilchrist added that he personally will help prosecute anyone who abuses the aliens or violates their civil rights.
“We mean business, and I assure you we will cooperate fully with federal, state and local law enforcement to identify and prosecute any troublemakers,” Mr. Gilchrist said. “We have conducted extensive background investigations and have eliminated a lot of people. We are confident that those who are here to participate are doing so for the very best reasons.”
He said the Minuteman Project was “not a call to arms, but a call to voices seeking a peaceful and respectable resolve to the chaotic neglect by members of our local, state and federal governments charged with applying U.S. immigration law.”
The targeted patrol areas are the most popular routes into the United States for illegal aliens entering from Mexico. More than 40 percent of the 1.15 million aliens apprehended last year by the Border Patrol were caught in this area.