October 1, 2005

Minutemen step up US border patrol; violence feared

By Tim Gaynor

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. militia group will
launch a month-long sweep for illegal immigrants along the
border with Mexico this weekend, stepping up a campaign that
has raised fears of violence.

Volunteers plan to gather at seven sites between San Diego,
California, and Brownsville, Texas, throughout October to scour
the deserts for illegal immigrants and report them to the U.S.
Border Patrol so they can be arrested.

The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps began their controversial
patrols in Arizona in April and spin-off groups later held
similar operations in California.

Now, for the first time, the Minutemen are taking their
protest to all four U.S. states along the porous 2,000-mile
(3,200-km) border with Mexico beginning on Saturday.

The Minutemen, who take their name from an American
Revolution militia, are keeping the specific locations secret
for fear they might attract protesters, who clashed with
breakaway militia patrols in California.

"It is being very tightly controlled this time because the
opposition has blatantly said that they are going to direct
violence at our volunteers," Minuteman founder Chris Simcox
told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"Our patrols will be held on private ranch land ... Our
volunteers have been well-trained and know how to deal with
protesters if they do get near us and will report them to local
law enforcement," he added.

In July, protesters scuffled with breakaway California
Minutemen volunteers in Campo, a border town southeast of San

Some of the Minutemen were armed. U.S. President George W.
Bush has called them "vigilantes" and Mexico's government
dubbed the group "migrant hunters."

The Minutemen insist they are simply filling a gap in U.S.
law enforcement and drawing attention to the government's
failure to secure U.S. land borders.

"We will be going home when the government sends troops or
the National Guard to secure the border," Simcox said. "Until
then, the patrols will continue."

While most of their attention is focused on the frontier
with Mexico, which millions of immigrants cross illegally every
year, they also plan vigils in areas on the Canadian border.


The growth of the Minuteman patrols has stirred stiff
opposition among Latino activists and many residents in towns
and cities along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The California-based Brown Berets, a Mexican-American group
that was allied with the revolutionary U.S. Black Panther Party
in the 1960s, has vowed to confront the Minuteman volunteers
during their October vigil.

An Arizona rights group, the Border Action Network,
distributed posters to stores in Naco, Douglas and Nogales on
the Mexican border this week, declaring the communities
"hate-free zones" and saying "racist vigilantes" are unwelcome.

In Texas earlier this year, 11 state senators urged Gov.
Rick Perry to oppose the Minuteman patrols, saying they could
"negatively affect tourism and trade along the border" and make
law enforcement "more dangerous and difficult."

In the sweltering border city of Brownsville, a court this
month passed a resolution opposing the presence of "Minutemen
or other vigilante groups" along a stretch of the Rio Grande in
Cameron County.

The volunteers range from retired servicemen and off-duty
law enforcement officers to businessmen and office workers.