Minutemen are on the move

Border patrols to begin in N.M.; group finding opposition in Texas

12:00 AM CDT on Friday, September 30, 2005

From Wire Reports

Members of a volunteer border patrol group plan to begin monitoring New Mexico's southern border this weekend and say the monthlong operation will include other states, including Texas. But some authorities in Texas have discouraged the group from patrolling its border.

[Click image for a larger version] MATT YORK/AP
Minuteman volunteer Phil Lyons of Houston looked over the U.S.-Mexico border near Naco, Ariz., in April. The civilian border patrol looks to expand operations in New Mexico and Texas.

"A successful operation, of course, is to keep pressure on Washington but also just to prove that a presence down there, with people on the ground, will help us deter illegal immigration," said Bob Wright, chief of the New Mexico chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.

The Minutemen drew international attention in April, when they trained binoculars along the Arizona border in an effort to show how sending more personnel and resources could stanch the flood of illegal immigration. They said they helped apprehend 335 illegal immigrants.

They have announced that they will begin watching the border in Texas, but several entities have said "No thanks":

• Last spring, 11 Texas Democrats in the state Legislature signed a resolution asking Gov. Rick Perry to say the Minutemen were not welcome in Texas. Mr. Perry refused, saying he could not ban people from legal activity.

• In August, El Paso passed a resolution against such groups.

• This month, members of a small Cameron County church near the border distributed more than 1,800 white ribbons to protest the civilian patrols.

• And, three weeks ago, the Cameron County Commissioners Court unanimously passed a resolution opposing citizen border patrols, citing respect for immigrants, confidence in federal law enforcement and a shared history with Mexico.

Mr. Wright said the New Mexico chapter has about 160 volunteers, and more are signing up.

He said he expects the project to be successful despite high gasoline prices and fewer volunteers because of hurricane relief efforts in Louisiana and Texas.

"We're going to accomplish our mission if it all has to come out of our pocket," he said.

Minuteman officials have met with state and local law enforcement in recent months to discuss their operations.

Observers with the American Civil Liberties Union will also be along the border next month.

"We are there to prevent any possible altercations and document any abuses, not to provoke them," said ACLU facilitator Ray Ybara.

Paul Martinez, Las Cruces council president for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said his group was concerned that Minuteman leaders might not be able to control all recruits.

"These types of movements attract people with ulterior motives," Mr. Martinez said. "They can be loose cannons."

Mr. Wright dismissed concerns about violence. "We do not interfere with people. We have a strict no-contact policy," he said.

Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier repeated the agency's position regarding the Minutemen: The concern of private citizens who report suspicious activity is appreciated, "but securing our borders is a difficult job and requires highly trained law enforcement personnel like the Border Patrol."