... watch.html

Border watch planned for East County

By Leslie Berestein
September 30, 2005

Two weeks after plans for a large border-watch event in the San Diego area fizzled, another group of anti-illegal-immigration activists plans to take a crack at scouting for smuggling traffic along the border in East County.

This latest group, the third to come to San Diego County in three months, is part of a larger, Arizona-based group that has coalesced in the wake of the Minuteman Project border-watch event there in April.

Organizers for the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, as the Arizona group calls itself, have planned the local border watch as one of several to take place through October in the four states lining the Southwest border and in three states on the northern border with Canada.

The California group won't cover more than a two-mile area, and organizer Tim Donnelly won't say for sure how many people will participate starting tomorrow. He said the point is to use the media to send a message to legislators that the group and others are upset with the way illegal immigration is being handled by the federal government.

"If some of us are shallow enough to think we are stopping all the traffic and trying to arrest people, we are sadly mistaken," said Donnelly, a Lake Arrowhead-area businessman. "We are going down there to be heard in Washington. If we go to the border and we provide a little controversy, we will get covered."

Organizers initially hoped to draw thousands of participants nationwide, but how much success they have remains to be seen. Two California border-watch events over the summer failed to draw many participants.

In Campo in July, a group calling itself the California Minutemen drew about 40 people at one time. Two weekends ago, a second group calling itself Friends of the Border Patrol that at one time claimed interest from 2,000 people called off patrols after a scuffle with protesters and a turnout of about two dozen for a morning training meeting.

Both groups say they have had participants patrolling in East County since then, but there have been few of them.

There has also been strong resistance from protesters, who believe many border-watch participants are more motivated by xenophobia than by genuine concerns about border security.

About 300 people turned out at a rally two weeks ago in Calexico, where city leaders passed a resolution denouncing civilian patrols. The city of San Diego's Human Relations Commission passed a similar resolution during the summer.

"They claim there are no racists (involved), but there is no standardized test for racism," said Ed Herrera, who directs a San Diego-based group, the Human Rights Coalition of California. "Encouraging people to go out there with guns, and not knowing which racists have infiltrated your group, is not the right way."

Herrera said he plans to meet with members of the California Minutemen, which has strongly advocated that participants carry guns, when that group stages a separate border-watch event in the Campo area next weekend. That group has operated on federal Bureau of Land Management property, where its members are protected by hunting laws.

Donnelly's group plans to cover only a small part of BLM land, but "we will be in compliance with the law." He would not specify where the group will set up.

Chris Simcox, the Arizona-based leader of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, is on probation after being found guilty last year of illegally carrying a loaded, concealed handgun onto national parkland and lying to a ranger about it.

Donnelly said there are no plans for his group to work directly with either the California Minutemen or Friends of the Border Patrol. The leaders of those rival groups have been critical of one another.

There will probably be some overlap, though, because many border-watch participants tend to bounce from group to group whenever there is an event.

Donnelly, who runs a small plastics company, said he is well aware of the jobs magnet that attracts undocumented immigrants to the U.S. That is a future battle, he said, but for now the border watch will get the word out that people such as him want tighter immigration controls.

"For now, the border is what gets attention," Donnelly said.

At least 40 anti-illegal-immigration groups have formed around the country since the Minuteman Project took place in April, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors such groups.