Thursday, February 9, 2006

About 100 members of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, an illegal-immigration watchdog group, rallied outside the U.S. Capitol yesterday to protest President Bush’s proposed guest-worker program and urge the government to send military troops to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

At one point, the group clashed with two Nazi demonstrators and about a dozen pro-immigration activists who came out to protest the Minuteman supporters.

Several Minutemen supporters said an estimated 3 million illegals who cross the border each year smuggle drugs, rape women, burden public services and steal jobs from U.S. citizens, especially from blacks and legal immigrants. The group began patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border last spring.

Jim Gilchrist, the group’s co-founder, and Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, said Mr. Bush’s guest-worker plan creates an “amnesty” that would encourage more illegals to cross onto U.S. soil. The plan would allow U.S. employers to recruit immigrants and illegals already in the country for hard-to-fill positions.

“What the president has done is invite literally hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens into the U.S. [and the Senate is] planning to blindly pass [the guest-worker amnesty plan] without any recognition to what Americans want,” Mr. Gilchrist said.

“We have to know who these people are, where they live,” he said. “To ignore this [illegal-immigration] problem, which has become a menace to society, is asking for a death wish.”

The House last year passed a border-enforcement bill that calls for, among other things, the construction of 700 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border and makes it a felony to cross illegally. The Senate will debate its own version of the bill in coming weeks.

Other speakers yesterday included Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican; the California Coalition for Immigration Reform; Americans for Immigration Control; and Mothers Against Illegal Aliens.

About 15 minutes into the rally, a dozen pro-immigration demonstrators interrupted the Minutemen and their supporters, by ringing bells and chanting “Minutemen, go away! Racist, sexist, anti-gay!” They also carried signs that read “Change Your Name, You’re Still the KKK” and “No One Is Illegal.”

Minutemen supporters surrounded the protesters and tried to shield them from view with signs.

Pro-immigration protester Michelle Smith, 24, of the District, said illegal aliens support the economy by performing the low-paying field or factory jobs that Americans don’t want. “People should be allowed to work. People should be allowed to eat,” she said.

Jorge Cisneros, with the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the Minutemen perpetuate a “racist mentality” that tarnishes the image of the Hispanic community. “Latinos are the most segregated population in our country today, and it’s because of people like this,” he said.

Police escorted from the rally two demonstrators from the National Socialist Movement who wore swastika arm bands. The men called the Minutemen “sellouts” because the group denies that its stance on illegal entry is based on race or ethnicity.

The men, who identified themselves as Nazis, support white immigrants — legal or illegal — and oppose blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.

The Minuteman rally was part of a weeklong movement to bring awareness to the country’s illegal-entry issue.

Earlier this week, 16 sheriffs from Texas border towns testified before Congress about their experiences with illegal-alien drug traffickers.

The Minutemen today will urge Senate leaders to adopt several border-enforcement measures. Minutemen co-founder Chris Simcox, Mr. Gilchrist and Mr. Tancredo also are expected to attend this week’s annual national Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

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