Hundreds march against Minutemen in New Mexico

Associated Press
Jul. 24, 2005 12:00 AM

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Chanting "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Minutemen have got to go," hundreds of demonstrators marched through downtown Las Cruces on Saturday to protest the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps volunteer group.

At a brief rally after the march, elected officials from New Mexico and Texas decried the volunteer-based border patrol group as racist and un-American.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, one of the oldest Latino civil rights organizations in the country, organized the march and rally to show that Minuteman volunteers are not wanted in the area.

"It's a racist organization, there is no question," said LULAC national treasurer Jaime Martinez before leading marchers from California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. "They say they will monitor the border, but now they are coming into our cities. Something has to be done."

Minuteman volunteers, who plan to patrol parts of the border in New Mexico and Texas starting in October, have repeatedly denied claims of racism. The group gained international attention earlier this year when a contingent patrolled a section of the Mexican border in southern Arizona.

William N. Norris, a coordinator for the group's New Mexico chapter who attended Saturday's rally, said the group's goal is not to stop immigration, but to ensure that immigrants "fill out the paperwork and sign the guest book at the gate."

"That's why we do a background check," the 51-year-old construction worker said, referring to the screening all Minuteman volunteers undergo before being allowed on a patrol. "None of us wants a loose cannon out there."

Protesters, however, compared the Minuteman volunteers with Ku Klux Klan members.

"We are targeted because we look or sound foreign," said Jaime Martinez, a Texas labor union leader in San Antonio who is an American citizen.

Organizers also say resentment plays a role in the Minuteman group's decision to patrol the border.

"They are jealous," said Paul Martinez, president of the Las Cruces chapter of LULAC. "Our community has made progress, and we are continuing to make progress as Americans, that's what they are not telling you."

Mary Jane Garcia, the Democratic majority whip of the New Mexico state Senate, called on the federal government to take action against the Minuteman volunteers and work on real reform of immigration laws.

Forcing Hispanic immigrants out of the country, which many suggested Saturday was the real goal of the border volunteers, is not the answer, she said.