Patriots on Watch hold rally

By Randy Moll Staff Writer //

Posted on Thursday, August 3, 2006

GENTRY — About 15 people gathered in the Gentry City Park on July 29 for a rally sponsored by Patriots on Watch, a new political-activist organization seeking to put an end to illegal immigration.

“ We’re not racists, “ Gary Windham of Springdale said. “ We just want immigration laws to be enforced. ”

Windham, David Hadley, Jody Franks and Don Carter are founders of the 5-monthold group which has approximately 200 members in northwest Arkansas, mostly in Fort Smith and Springdale.

Windham expressed concerns that illegal immigrants are overburdening American taxpayers, taking middle-class American jobs and, in some cases, involved in illegal drug trafficking. America is selling itself out to foreign interests, he said. “ We’ve got to secure our borders, ” he said.

Group members expressed disappointment in current government officials who, they say, do nothing to solve the immigration problem.

Windham said he and others wanted to join the Minuteman Project — a growing movement of American citizens opposed to illegal immigration which has sent groups to watch the U. S. borders and report illegal entries to authorities — but were not able to take time off from their jobs to help at the borders. When they couldn’t take part in the Minuteman Project, they formed their own group and work to keep pressure on companies like Tyson and Wal-Mart to abide by the law and not hire illegal aliens.

Though much of the group’s focus involves illegal Hispanic immigrants, that is simply due to their numbers, according to Windham.

“ We’re not anti-Hispanic, ” Windham said, claiming he has some Hispanic blood himself. “ It’s not about color; it’s about commitment to our country. ”

The group does not oppose immigration when in accordance with the law, which often requires petitions and sponsorship by family members or employers.

Brandon Chandler spoke to the group on behalf of State Sen. Jim Holt, who sent his regrets for not being able to attend the rally. Chandler spoke of Holt’s work in the state senate in opposition to spending tax-payer dollars on non-federally-mandated medical services for illegal residents and of his work to kill House Bill 1525, which would have allowed illegal residents to attend Arkansas colleges and universities at instate tuition rates and receive tax-payer-funded state scholarships. Chandler said Holt was “ raked over the coals” and misrepresented by a part of the media for his stand against spending tax-payer dollars to support those in this country illegally.