Civilians patrol Mexican border with Minuteman Project

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The Minuteman Project, an all-volunteer-based effort supported by the Civil Homeland Defense Corps, began a demonstration April 1 to stop illegal immigration and drug smuggling near the Arizona and Mexico border.

Grey Beacon, volunteer administrator of the Minuteman Project, said the demonstration is meant to bring attention to the high rate of illegal immigration. The volunteers are there to observe potential illegal activity, and report such activities to the appropriate authorities.

With several people citing frustration about immigration laws, several volunteers have turned out for the protest.

“Welcome to the Bush administration,” Beacon said. “That’s (the) reason we’re down here. (It is) a neighborhood watch program.”

The Minuteman Project consists of about 600 people who look for potential illegal activity using spotting scopes, Beacon said. Once they detect illegal activity, they call the Border Patrol to have the suspects arrested. With several people citing frustration about immigration laws, several volunteers have turned out to the protest.

“Welcome to the Bush administration,” Beacon said. “That’s (the) reason we’re down here.”

Beacon said the Minuteman Project is in need of more volunteers and equipment because there are still a lot of ongoing operations.

“Large parts of our border don’t even have (fences),” Beacon said.

Some volunteers have gone through training sessions, Beacon said. Several of them are armed.

Christopher Shortell, political science professor, said that although the volunteers in the Minuteman Project have a right to bear arms, they are not law-enforcement officials. The Minutemen have the right to continue the project, as long as they do not violate the law. Since drug smugglers from across the border will not hesitate to eliminate whatever resistance they meet, there is an element of danger attached to the Minuteman Project, Shortell said.

“It’s generally a bad idea,” Shortell said. “They are putting themselves at risk.”

There have been no injuries reported since the project began, and Beacon said volunteers have helped capture 236 individuals. Many of the immigrants crossing the border, some of which come from countries with failing economies, are seeking jobs in the United States.

“Our kids used to have those jobs,” Beacon said. “Those employers (who hire illegal immigrants) are in fact criminals (and are) breaking the law.”

According to Shortell, a number of people affiliated with the Minuteman Project are “fringe-militia groups,” some of whom have another agenda and are anti-government. One of the volunteers, in fact, served as weapons instructor to executed Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, Shortell said.

This is not an effective way to tackle the immigration issue people claim to be fighting for, Shortell said. Those who want to cross the border know where the Minutemen are located, and can cross at other less-guarded border points. Such a project could only be successful in a localized area, he said.

“It will last as long as anyone pays attention to it,” Shortell said. “They don’t have widespread support.”

Leslie De Leon, junior graphic design major, said she agrees with the idea of action to control illegal immigration, but disagrees with the idea of having citizen volunteers involved.

“I don’t think they should be asking the public to come volunteer,” De Leon said.