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Protest march targets groups fighting illegal immigration

By Terry Rodgers
July 3, 2005

SAN YSIDRO – More than 250 activists who favor a more open border between the United States and Mexico held a march yesterday to protest the activities of groups opposed to illegal immigration.

The marchers banged drums, chanted and burned sage as they walked a 2.1-mile route from San Ysidro Community Park to the San Ysidro Athletic Area, crossing Interstate 5 at the Camino de la Plaza overpass, which overlooks the San Ysidro border crossing.

The march, which was organized by Gente Unida, was peaceful and without conflict except for a few youths who briefly taunted the marchers, police said. Gente Unida is a coalition of pro-immigrant groups from Southern California, Arizona and Mexico.

Speaking from the back of a flatbed truck, Enrique Morones of the Border Angels, a group that sets up desert water stations for immigrants, said the Minuteman Project and like-minded groups foster violence and racial hatred against immigrants who come to the United States to find work.

"Minuteman and other vigilante groups are not Neighborhood Watch," Morones said. "We set the agenda, not them."

Police estimated the number of marchers at 250. Morones said the number may have reached 300 at its peak.

The Minuteman Project involved citizen activists who patrolled the border in Arizona in April. The group said its aim was to assist the U.S. Border Patrol in containing illegal immigration from Mexico. Similar groups are planning border-watch projects in California this summer.

Morones criticized Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for endorsing the Minuteman Project's efforts.

"We don't want a governor who says the Minutemen are welcome," he said. "They are not welcome here and they're not welcome anywhere. We say no to the militarization of the border."

Aliso Viejo resident Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, said yesterday that his group is neither racist nor violent.

He said the Minutemen are fed up with "political corruption" that has allowed lax enforcement of immigration laws and allowed a porous border.

"The Minutemen want the U.S. to return to the rule of law and sovereignty," Gilchrist said. "Are we biased against illegal aliens? Absolutely. Are we biased against legal immigrants? No, we are not."