Thursday, April 7, 2005

There aren’t many border-control success stories these days, but Arizona’s Minuteman Project is quickly becoming one. For observers wondering how average Americans can contribute meaningfully to homeland security, the Minutemen are becoming something of a model. If a comparison to Britain’s World War II civilian spotters seems far-fetched — the spotters were private citizens, often over the age to serve in the military, who watched for Nazi planes and helped British forces score some considerable successes — the difference is one of circumstance. That’s something for President Bush and the open-borders crowd to think about.

In their first week, the binoculared and infrared-equipped Minutemen spotted dozens of suspected illegals and reported them to the Border Patrol. In one of their first encounters with illegals, as Jerry Seper of The Washington Times reported from Palominas, Ariz., volunteers rescued a dehydrated and emaciated illegal. “Everything has gone very nicely,” American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Ray Ybarra told The Washington Times. A few weeks ago the ACLU was intoning gravely about possible abuses and violent confrontations. This week it says things are fine.

Only one even remotely troubling report has emerged. Three volunteers allegedly stopped a migrant and forced him to wear a T-shirt that read: “Bryan Barton caught an illegal alien and all I got was this T-shirt.” If that’s the worst to come from Project Minuteman, everyone should be pleased.

The Minuteman effect is being felt across the border. In Mexico, the Houston Chronicle reports, the town of Agua Prieta, a hub for illegals, is abuzz with anxiety. Grupo Beta, a government agency that aids illegals, has located the Minutemen and is telling illegals to go around. That, Minuteman organizer Chris Simcox says, is a victory. “We want to show that force of numbers secures the border,” he told the Chronicle. Of course, he’s only right if we have civilian patrols along the whole stretch of the border. Which we may soon have if Minuteman successes continue.

Publicly, Border Patrol executives have opposed the Minuteman Project and warned of violent confrontations. We are gratified no such violence has occurred. Privately, Minutemen are getting word from agents in the field that they appreciate their help. As Mr. Simcox told Fox News Thursday morning, agents are giving the “thumbs up” to the volunteers.

How ironic that the people who President Bush derided as “vigilantes” are acting as much-needed extra eyes and ears for law-enforcement officials. The Minutemen have all but sealed the U.S.-Mexico border in the 23-mile stretch they patrol. Their success suggests that, organized in larger scale with a cooperative federal government, groups like Project Minuteman could be a substantial contribution to border security. At the very least, the Minutemen are bringing some much-needed attention to the nation’s woefully porous borders. We hope President Bush and others who prefer the status quo are watching.

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