Tuesday, March 8, 2005

The Mexican government has asked U.S. officials to ensure illegal-immigration protesters patrolling the Arizona border next month do not abuse Mexican nationals caught illegally entering the United States.

In a diplomatic note to U.S. officials, Geronimo Gutierrez, undersecretary for North American affairs at Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, suggested it was “very probable” the protesters could violate the rights of illegal aliens, and that they must be monitored.

“What there is concern about is that some of these actions that could be taken could be in violation of federal and state laws to the detriment of Mexican citizens,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “Mexico doesn’t want the rights of its citizens transgressed, especially if those actions are in violation of federal and state laws.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Gutierrez was involved in the distribution of about 1.5 million comic-book guides that warned Mexican nationals about the dangers of crossing illegally into the United States and offered tips on how to stay safe. It was published by Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department.

The volunteers will spend 30 days on the Arizona-Mexico border beginning April 1 as part of what has been called the “Minuteman Project.” The protest is aimed at highlighting what the volunteers call the United States’ failure at immigration enforcement.

James Gilchrist, a project organizer, yesterday said the volunteers would be posted along the border to observe illegal aliens coming into this country and report them to the U.S. Border Patrol. He said none of the volunteers, some of whom will be armed, will attempt to confront the aliens, and those who do will be sent home.

“Currently, about 5,000 ‘unapprehended’ illegal aliens trespass the Arizona-Mexico border daily, and another 5,000 invade the United States from the Texas, California and New Mexico borders. That’s 10,000 a day … over 3 million a year,” said Mr. Gilchrist.

The event “will tune the American people into the shameful fact that 21st century minutemen/women have to help secure U.S. borders because the U.S. government refuses to provide our dutiful Border Patrol with the manpower and funding required to do so,” said Mr. Gilchrist, a retired certified public accountant in California.

The list of volunteers has more than tripled over the past month and includes representatives from every state, including 10 from Virginia and two from Maryland.

Focusing on a 20-mile stretch of border lowlands in the San Pedro River Valley, near Naco, Ariz., 90 miles southeast of Tucson, the volunteers will be assigned to ground observation posts, aerial surveillance from 16 aircraft and a communications center to report illegal aliens crossing into the country.

The targeted area has become a high-traffic corridor for illegal aliens because it has water, level ground, places to camp and wood to burn.

“Volunteers of the Minuteman Project will assemble under the First Amendment and protest their disappointment with federal, state and local political representatives who have deliberately neglected and avoided the enforcement of immigration laws,” Mr. Gilchrist said. “If the United States is to be heralded as a nation ruled by law, then it must actually enforce its laws.

“Anything less would relegate this great nation to dictator or mob rule … something the Founding Fathers ingeniously sought to prevent,” he said.

More than 1.15 million illegal aliens were apprehended last year by the Border Patrol while attempting to enter the United States. Nearly 40 percent of them were detained in southern Arizona along a 260-mile stretch of border known as the Tucson sector.

Federal and state law-enforcement authorities have expressed concern over the safety of the volunteers, many of whom will camp out along the border.

Tucson Sector Border Patrol Chief Michael Nicely has said the agency is “always concerned about civilians who put themselves in danger,” adding that alien and drug smugglers who use the area to bring their illicit cargo into the United States have not hesitated to assault his agents.

Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, whose jurisdiction includes the targeted area, also has warned of violence and has told those participating in the blockade to obey the law.

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