Border ‘vigilantes,’ protesters face off in Calif.
By Marty Graham
CAMPO, Calif. (Reuters) – A sleepy desert town near San
Diego became the front line in the debate over U.S. immigration
policy on Saturday, as volunteers set out to spot illegal
immigrants from Mexico and protesters tried to discourage the
citizen patrols they see as vigilantes.
Throughout the day, people arrived to sign up for border
watch, including Jeffrey Mundt of nearby Oceanside, who brought
radios to be used by volunteers. Cell phones proved useless in
the isolated, rugged terrain.
“I’m all for legal immigration and people coming through
the ports of entry like our forefathers did,” Mundt said. “I
want to help my country secure our borders and keep terrorists
and criminals out.”
Jim Chase, leader of the Border Patrol Auxiliary that is
leading the border watch, estimated that 100 people came to
Campo to support his efforts.
Chase took part in the widely publicized Minuteman Project
efforts along the Arizona border in April, but split from that
and other border watch groups over tactics.
Chase, who has said he intends to support the rule of law
at the border, has also sent e-mails to volunteers encouraging
them to bring firearms and baseball bats.
Meanwhile, at least 100 protesters, some from as far away
as Arizona, staged a demonstration behind the Campo Veterans of
Foreign Wars Post, which lent one of its halls to Chase’s
After a loud but peaceful late-morning confrontation,
protesters set up camp at the border, while border watchers
dispersed, vowing to return at night.
Scores of Minuteman Project volunteers, who take their name
from a militia in the American Revolution, turned up in April
in the Arizona desert, some armed.
President Bush called these volunteers “vigilantes” and
many in Mexico denounced them as “migrant hunters.” But the
groups are allowed to legally watch for immigrants as long as
they break no laws.
CONGRESS TO CONSIDER POLICY
The new patrols come as the U.S. Congress considers
immigration policy and how to treat the estimated 11 million
illegal immigrants already in the United States.
Local residents, many of whom routinely deal with illegal
border crossers — as well as Border Patrol chases, said they
did not like either group of visitors.
“I don’t want the illegals on my property. I don’t want the
Minutemen on my property. I don’t want the Border Patrol on my
property,” said John Murphy, a Vietnam war veteran who owns 85
acres within five miles of the border.
Meanwhile, down a dirt road at the hilly, rugged border
fence, protesters barbecued food, chanted and prayed, and
stayed out of the sun. When they spotted border watchers, the
protesters massed around them, telling them to go home.
“There’s no place for you in California,” said Bruce
Cooley, of Los Angeles. “You are contributing to the deaths of
people who are trying to cross to feed their families” back
One border watcher, who refused to give his name as he
climbed into his Jeep, outfitted with a dirt bike, said he
would be back. “It’s intimidating to have all those people yell
at you,” the San Diego resident said. “But we’ll come back
tonight and just sneak up on them.”
Dozens of San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies gave up days
off to police the border watchers and protesters. The
California Highway Patrol also sent extra officers.
Richard Barlow, a Campo resident whose son is the local
Border Patrol commander, said that between 15 and 30 illegal
crossers go by his 100-acre property each day.
“The Border Patrol definitely needs some help,” he said. “I
guess it’s going to take the Minutemen to make that happen.”