Minuteman organizers hope to patrol other border states
ASSOCIATED PRESS | April 15, 2005
By Arthur H. Rotstein
TUCSON, Ariz. – Organizers of a project using civilian volunteers to watch for illegal immigrants and smugglers along the Arizona border want to expand to other border states this fall.
Patrols would be concentrated in high-traffic smuggling areas similar to the stretch in southeastern Arizona where volunteers with the Minuteman Project are patrolling through April 30, said Chris Simcox, a project organizer.
Simcox, who said the project "ignited a national wave of support," also noted supporters want to conduct a national fundraiser to help pay for gas and equipment for volunteers.
Critics, including those fearing that racist-inspired violence might erupt, said they doubt there's widespread public support but acknowledge the project appears to be accomplishing a primary objective: drawing national attention.
"This has been probably one of the more successful efforts by these types of groups to draw media attention," said Joe Roy, chief intelligence analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center's intelligence center in Montgomery, Ala.
The Minuteman Project volunteers, some of whom are armed, began spreading out earlier this month along a 23-mile stretch of desert between the border communities of Naco and Douglas.
Organizers say they want the patrols to call attention to what they say is the federal government's failure to secure the border against illegal immigrants, smugglers and potential terrorists.
Arizona is considered the most vulnerable stretch of the 2,000-mile southern border. Of the 1.1 million illegal immigrants caught by the Border Patrol last year, more than half crossed the border through Arizona.
Law enforcement officials have said they fear the project will lead to vigilante violence, an accidental confrontation between armed volunteers and authorities, or a dangerous encounter with the violent smugglers who use the area.
Minuteman Project spokesmen said that the sightings they have reported between April 4 and Wednesday resulted in the apprehending of 268 illegal immigrants by the Border Patrol, whose agents have caught 2,373 people in the Naco area this month.