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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
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    May 2005
    California or ground zero of the invasion

    Stalking the Day Laborers ... %2C00.html

    Sunday, Nov. 27, 2005
    Stalking the Day Laborers
    Border-patrolling Minutemen turn inland in their fight against illegal
    immigrants. What's the real goal?

    The Minutemen could be heard before they were seen. First came the bullhorns barking "This is America, not Mexico" and "No work today. The Minutemen have arrived." Then the group of two dozen men and women, holding U.S. flags and cameras in their hands, turned the corner and started bearing down on Hispanic workers waiting for jobs outside the Macehualli day-labor center in northern Phoenix, Ariz. Sensing trouble, some took refuge behind the gates of the center, and others melted away down side streets. As the laborers fled, the protesters tried to take pictures of their faces. "This is our country!" shouted a Minuteman. "We are under invasion."

    Salvador Reza, 54, a project coordinator for the center, called 911, and several minutes later the police arrived and defused the confrontation. "It was starting to become dangerous," he says. "They wanted to create violence and then blame it on the laborers."

    Although the demonstrators denied having violent intent, they surely had plans for any photographs they could take of laborers being hired on the street. The pictures would have been sent to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and posted on websites like The hope was that doing so would put the heat on U.S. employers who hire some of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and on the immigrants themselves, forcing them out of business.

    The campaign, Operation Spotlight, is a new--and some fear dangerous--tactic by the self-named Minutemen, the anti- illegal-immigrant group that in April began standing watch on the Arizona-Mexico border to intercept people crossing into the U.S. The group has caught few border jumpers but generated lots of attention for its cause and is now turning its focus in from the border, staging Operation Spotlight protests not only in Phoenix but also in the California cities of Laguna Beach, Lake Forest and San Bernardino as well as Herndon, Va. There are plans for demonstrations at day-labor centers in Alabama, New York and Tennessee.

    "We will be expanding these protests," says Jim Gilchrist, 56, a retired accountant who is a founder of the Minutemen. He is running for Congress in California, waging a single-issue campaign against illegal immigration. "We are even getting inquiries from countries like France and England."

    With President George W. Bush's scheduled visit to the Southwest raising anew the issue of the porous border and with Congress planning to take up several bills in December to address the problem, the Minutemen's timing, at least, is deft. But vigilantism is a risky business, particularly when it carries an odor of race baiting. The more the tension builds, say the Minutemen's critics, the greater the risk that violence, avoided in Phoenix, could break out. "The Minutemen are getting stronger precisely because Bush and Congress are addressing immigration," says Tamar Jacoby, an immigration expert at the Manhattan Institute in New York City. The question is, Can Washington reach a solution before somebody throws a punch--or worse?

    The kind of day-worker center that the Minutemen target is an unusual bureaucratic creation made possible by loopholes in the immigration and tax codes. Cities with big illegal-immigrant populations have been setting up such centers lately to lend some organization to what had been an underground marketplace. At the centers, laborers can drop in and earn from $7 to $10 an hour doing jobs such as construction and landscaping. The law does not require the day-labor centers to check the legal status of workers. It allows employers to hire them without informing federal and state agencies if the workers perform casual, nonrecurrent jobs like babysitting or gardening on the employer's property or if they have a special skill like carpentry and can work without supervision. In those cases, the day-labor centers can legitimately--if not very plausibly--argue that the workers were legals. The practice plays cute with the law, to be sure, but since people get paid and work gets done, just about everyone involved with it has something to gain from it. What's not to like?

    Plenty, insist Gilchrist and his ilk. "Illegal aliens are invading this country and are killing us," he says. Anyone who hires them is a "morally cheap slave employer."

    That's not the way Michael O'Reilly, mayor of Herndon, sees it. O'Reilly had been receiving increasing citizen complaints about crowds of up to 100 illegal immigrants congregating on a conspicuous corner in front of a 7-Eleven, where locals in need of day labor knew they could go and pick up a worker or two. O'Reilly created a day-labor center, which cleared the sidewalk and created jobs. No sooner did he do that, however, than Herndon resident George Taplin, a software engineer and Navy veteran who is the local leader of the Minutemen, began organizing volunteers to videotape laborers going to the center and even follow them to their work sites. Taplin then handed over the information to the IRS and state licensing agencies. "The laborers hide their faces when they see us coming, and the employers don't stop [to pick them up]," Taplin says. So far he is not aware of any government agencies acting on the information he has given them, but he is hopeful that they will.

    O'Reilly, who says he has received hate mail and crank calls since setting up the day-labor center, wonders if the Minutemen even care whether they get an official response. "Several of the national groups had an interest in making us a test case when we were trying to solve a local issue," he says. The real goal for the Minutemen, he argues, is creating nationwide publicity for their cause.

    The group is trying a variety of tactics. Gilchrist is running in a special election to fill a House seat that became available when Bush appointed Christopher Cox, who represented Gilchrist's district, to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. Although Gilchrist decided to enter the race only three weeks before the October primary, in which 16 other candidates were running, he won 14.8% of the vote. That earned him a place in the runoff on Dec. 6 against Republican John Campbell, who got 45.5%.

    Mark Petracca, a professor of political science at the University of California at Irvine, says Gilchrist has made illegal immigration a "fulcrum issue, around which revolve most of the other issues people care about," such as education, taxation and health care.

    If so, the Minutemen have a way to go to sell their message--or at least themselves as its messenger. In a recent CBS News poll, 65% of respondents said they oppose the group's border patrols. But in the same poll, 75% of respondents said the U.S. government is not doing enough to keep illegal immigrants out. Says Jacoby: "The Minutemen are a small group, but they can be the tail that wags the dog."

    How vigorously they try is what concerns immigrants and their supporters. Tisha Tallman, a regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund who has been monitoring the Herndon situation, concedes that U.S. immigration law is "broken and does not correspond with our current reality." The bills that have been circulating in Congress take different, sometimes overlapping approaches to the problem. The most divisive issue among them is whether undocumented immigrants should be required to return to their home country before applying for a work visa or whether they could get guest-worker status without leaving the U.S. The second, more lenient option has been attacked by the Minutemen and other conservative groups as tantamount to amnesty.

    Until Congress decides, the Minutemen are likely to keep showing up at labor centers to take pictures, and the immigrants will keep coming to look for jobs. What happens between them will continue to make witnesses queasy, not just because of the looming risk of violence but also because of a sense that the system is badly broken. "This is America," says Keenan Strand, owner of the McDonald's restaurant across the street from the Macehualli center. "You can't just walk up to someone with brown skin, photograph them and demand their papers." For now, it appears, you can.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    North Carolina
    Well, this is such a crock of malarkey that I wouldn't even know where to BEGIN to respond. All I can say is GO MINUTEMEN! And, the poll they cited is just NOT consistent with all of the OTHER POLLS I'VE SEEN. MOST Americans, in fact, SUPPORT the Minutemen Project.

    Of course, you can't miss the fact that the writer of this article just HAD to bring up the RACE CARD. This seems to be their ONLY defense of this ILLEGAL activity. They figure that, if they play the race card, it will stir up the bleeding hearts. That one just won't wash. WHY do they not get the ILLEGAL PART??? WHY do they not SEE that these are lawbreakers from the minute they cross that border and, as experience is proving, they CONTINUE their complete disregard of our laws once they get here???

  3. #3
    Senior Member BobC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    What an incredibly unbiased, fair-handed report. And people say there's no liberal slant to the news! This is exactly why nobody reads newspapers anymore.

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