Minutemen step up US border patrol; violence feared
30 Sep 2005 17:07:32 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Tim Gaynor

BROWNSVILLE, Texas, Sept 30 (Reuters) - A U.S. militia group will launch a month-long sweep for illegal immigrants along the border with Mexico this weekend, stepping up a campaign that has raised fears of violence.

Volunteers plan to gather at seven sites between San Diego, California, and Brownsville, Texas, throughout October to scour the deserts for illegal immigrants and report them to the U.S. Border Patrol so they can be arrested.

The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps began their controversial patrols in Arizona in April and spin-off groups later held similar operations in California.

Now, for the first time, the Minutemen are taking their protest to all four U.S. states along the porous 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border with Mexico beginning on Saturday.

The Minutemen, who take their name from an American Revolution militia, are keeping the specific locations secret for fear they might attract protesters, who clashed with breakaway militia patrols in California.

"It is being very tightly controlled this time because the opposition has blatantly said that they are going to direct violence at our volunteers," Minuteman founder Chris Simcox told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"Our patrols will be held on private ranch land ... Our volunteers have been well-trained and know how to deal with protesters if they do get near us and will report them to local law enforcement," he added.

In July, protesters scuffled with breakaway California Minutemen volunteers in Campo, a border town southeast of San Diego.

Some of the Minutemen were armed. U.S. President George W. Bush has called them "vigilantes" and Mexico's government dubbed the group "migrant hunters."

The Minutemen insist they are simply filling a gap in U.S. law enforcement and drawing attention to the government's failure to secure U.S. land borders.

"We will be going home when the government sends troops or the National Guard to secure the border," Simcox said. "Until then, the patrols will continue."

While most of their attention is focused on the frontier with Mexico, which millions of immigrants cross illegally every year, they also plan vigils in areas on the Canadian border.


The growth of the Minuteman patrols has stirred stiff opposition among Latino activists and many residents in towns and cities along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The California-based Brown Berets, a Mexican-American group that was allied with the revolutionary U.S. Black Panther Party in the 1960s, has vowed to confront the Minuteman volunteers during their October vigil.

An Arizona rights group, the Border Action Network, distributed posters to stores in Naco, Douglas and Nogales on the Mexican border this week, declaring the communities "hate-free zones" and saying "racist vigilantes" are unwelcome.

In Texas earlier this year, 11 state senators urged Gov. Rick Perry to oppose the Minuteman patrols, saying they could "negatively affect tourism and trade along the border" and make law enforcement "more dangerous and difficult."

In the sweltering border city of Brownsville, a court this month passed a resolution opposing the presence of "Minutemen or other vigilante groups" along a stretch of the Rio Grande in Cameron County.

The volunteers range from retired servicemen and off-duty law enforcement officers to businessmen and office workers.