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Making a stand on the border(South Texas)
San Antonio Express-News ^ | 02/21/2005 | HernŠn Rozemberg

Posted on 02/21/2005 2:42:11 PM PST by SwinneySwitch

They've cut down her fences, stolen her pickup and even broken into her home — once rampaging into the bedroom and nearly strangling her, sparing her life only after she grabbed a gun.

Not so lucky were several loyal dogs that were killed by the determined invaders.

Local authorities offered little help, and federal officers could do only so much with limited resources.

Left to fend for herself, South Texas rancher Kerry Morales decided to take direct action to stop undocumented immigrants who move daily through her 80 acres outside Hebbronville, about 54 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Maybe 20 years ago the illegals were innocent, hard-working people," she said. "Not any more. Now they're extremely dangerous. They mean violence."

In April, Morales plans to join approximately 1,000 other volunteers from across the United States expected to descend on a 20-mile stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border and become temporary, de facto border guards.

The effort already is drawing critics — including the Border Patrol — but organizers are adamant the monthlong gathering will be a peaceful show of force, not a vigilante operation.

Dubbed the Minuteman Project after the 1770s-era Massachusetts militiamen on call at a moment's notice, it is the brainchild of Jim Gilchrist, a retired California accountant and former Marine who fought in Vietnam.

Gilchrist tapped an Arizona activist, who for two years has been leading small groups of civilians to patrol the border, to help him organize the April mission. That state was picked because for several years it has led the country in undocumented migrant traffic.

South Texas could be next — possibly this summer, depending on how the first experiment goes.

"It's going to be a gigantic neighborhood watch," said Gilchrist, 56.

He said contact with migrants will be forbidden and any "wacko" who breaks ranks will be kicked out and reported to local authorities.

Since Arizona allows it, participants with handgun permits can carry their weapons. Still, they're encouraged to leave them at home because they won't need them, Gilchrist said. And larger firearms, including rifles — and soldier-like attire such as camouflage fatigues — won't be allowed.

"There's a place for Rambos in real wars," he said. "This is not a real war."

Emphasis on the nonviolent, law-abiding aspect of the Minuteman Project is key because organizers don't want to be seen as vigilantes. Other civilian border patrol efforts have gained a reputation as outlaw associations.

Numerous immigrant advocates and politicians have labeled the Minuteman Project's co-organizer, the Arizona-based Civil Homeland Defense, as a vigilante organization.

A similar description has been given to Ranch Rescue, a now-disbanded group formed in Texas that upon request dispatched military-clad, armed volunteers to assist border-area ranchers.

On one such mission in South Texas two years ago, a confrontation between Ranch Rescue members and undocumented migrants ended in court — the migrants claimed to have been beaten.

A jury did not concur but did find one group member guilty of illegally carrying a gun.

The Minuteman Project effort couldn't be more different in strategy and approach, Gilchrist said.

Groups of four to eight volunteers will be assigned to safe areas near the border to spot migrants using high-tech equipment such as night-vision binoculars.

Once crossers are identified, spotters will use cell phones and walkie-talkies to contact a "command center," which will relay sightings to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Participants will not confront migrants, letting them pass if encountered directly, Gilchrist said.

The strong military flavor in his talk is no coincidence. Not only is he a former Marine, his top ground organizers are all military veterans. About 60 in all, they will be led by a former Army sergeant major who led logistics planning during Gulf War I, Gilchrist said.

The project's apparently serious and structured approach has persuaded 29 Texans so far to sign up.

Just as he volunteered for two tours in Vietnam three decades ago, Bob Sabia of San Antonio felt a renewed call upon hearing of the Minuteman Project on a national conservative radio talk show.

Now retired, the 62-year-old former Marine pilot still takes to the air in his Cessna 150, which he plans to fly to Arizona to help foil illegal border crossings.

"Congress is not doing its job of protecting the nation's borders," Sabia said. "And there's enough of us vets around who aren't going to take this sitting down."

But it's not just about being patriotic. Many volunteers deem the ever-growing immigrant influx as eroding U.S. culture, arguing that most migrants don't learn English and show no interest in assimilating into the American mainstream.

For Charlie Preston of Austin, it's about providing the best future for his 5-year-old daughter.

If it takes shelling out his own money to be part of a national cry for politicians to recognize the negative socioeconomic effects of an open border, that's what Preston is ready to do.

"A nation has to have a unified culture," said Preston, 31, who owns a Web marketing business. "If that culture begins to break down, the entire country breaks down."

Immigrant advocates have heard such arguments before. And while they've also become used to seeing small groups of civilian border patrols, a massive incursion of anti-immigrant activists could prove disastrous, they warn.

Despite Gilchrist's repeated claims of peaceful mobilization, Isabel García doesn't buy a word of it.

The veiled language hides a hate-mongering, xenophobic intention to add to the boiling border political climate, said García, co-director of the Human Rights Coalition in Tucson, Ariz.

Minuteman Project participants should be promptly arrested and charged if they confront migrants, said García, noting her group plans to stage counterdemonstrations and may call on their own volunteers to directly monitor project activities.

Such advocates aren't the only ones against the idea. The U.S. Border Patrol also prefers that civilians stay home.

Though many patrol agents long have claimed to be outnumbered and have pleaded for additional manpower and newer equipment, agency leaders say the dangerous task of watching the border should be left to trained officers.

Project volunteers may end up giving border officers more unsolicited work and stress than necessary, said José Garza, a Brownsville native and spokesman for the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector.

Agents may have to respond to violent clashes between participants and drug traffickers. They may even have to break off from regular duties to assist people in distress — volunteers from out of state could easily get lost in the tricky, unforgiving desert, Garza said.

Gilchrist, noting that so far he has received about 40 negative e-mails in contrast to more than 4,000 messages of support, dismissed all criticism as unfounded and exaggerated.

He's counting on most volunteers being like Dan Lehnhoff, a fellow Vietnam veteran who lost a leg in 1970 while serving with the Navy.

Lehnhoff won't be able to move around too much with only one leg, but he said he'll take any assignment organizers give him.

"I can't be involved in anything shady. Military people can't be doing anything illegal, or we risk losing our pension," said Lehnhoff, 55, of Whitney, northwest of Waco, who plans to drive his RV to the Arizona border for three weeks in April.

"The main thing is to be law-abiding," he said. "You can't have a bunch of vigilantes down there taking the law into their own hands."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- hrozemberg@express-news.net


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Mexico; News/Current Events; US: Arizona; US: California; US: New Mexico; US: Texas; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: aliens; illegalimmigration; immigration; kerrymorales; minutemanproject; southernborder
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"Congress is not doing its job of protecting the nation's borders," Sabia said. "And there's enough of us vets around who aren't going to take this sitting down."

Amen, brother!

1 posted on 02/21/2005 2:42:12 PM PST by SwinneySwitch
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To: devane617; Fiddlstix; CindyDawg; solo gringo; Dog Gone; Pebcak; theDentist; JustAnotherSavage; ...

Southen Border Ping!

Please let me know if you want on or off this South Texas/Mexico ping list.


2 posted on 02/21/2005 2:44:30 PM PST by SwinneySwitch (Texas, bless God!)
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To: SwinneySwitch

Bound to be pulled.


3 posted on 02/21/2005 2:44:43 PM PST by 82Marine89 (U.S. Marines- Part of the Navy....The men's department.)
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To: SwinneySwitch

America needs to update and re-enact The Alien & Sedition Act.


4 posted on 02/21/2005 2:45:32 PM PST by NetValue (Be a democrat; oppose, lie, subvert, obstruct , and sabotage progress and ideals in America.)
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To: SwinneySwitch

bump


5 posted on 02/21/2005 2:47:18 PM PST by RippleFire ("It's a joke, son!")
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To: SwinneySwitch

bttt


6 posted on 02/21/2005 2:54:41 PM PST by raybbr
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To: NetValue
America needs to update and re-enact The Alien & Sedition Act.

No, it does not.

7 posted on 02/21/2005 2:56:40 PM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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To: SwinneySwitch
They've cut down her fences, stolen her pickup and even broken into her home — once rampaging into the bedroom and nearly strangling her, sparing her life only after she grabbed a gun.

Not so lucky were several loyal dogs that were killed by the determined invaders.

'nuf said.

8 posted on 02/21/2005 2:56:51 PM PST by Bradís Gramma (aitch tee tee pea colon 2 slashes dubya dubya dubya dot proud patriots dot org)
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To: SwinneySwitch

Ordinary citizens, doing the work our Federal Government doesn't want to do.


9 posted on 02/21/2005 2:58:02 PM PST by jocon307 (Vote George Washington for the #1 spot)
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Comment #10 Removed by Moderator

To: raybbr

You would be crazy to go out there unarmed, like they are advising people to do.

Could you imagine the frustration if you tail an illegal for miles, just not to have border patrol to respond?


11 posted on 02/21/2005 2:58:30 PM PST by Sybeck1
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Comment #12 Removed by Moderator

To: SwinneySwitch

The veiled language hides a hate-mongering, xenophobic intention to add to the boiling border political climate, said García, co-director of the Human Rights Coalition in Tucson, Ariz.

BS. The language is a cry of defiance in the face of political race-pandering at the financial and security expense of the rest of the country. On this score, W has done no better than the Dems. In fact, Hillary Clinton, of all people is doing better. She will ride this issue right into the White House in 2008 if Republicans don't wake up and smell our swiss cheese borders.


13 posted on 02/21/2005 2:59:50 PM PST by wvobiwan (Paris Hilton for UN Sec. Gen. - At least we might get laid while we're getting screwed.)
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To: M-cubed
Nice job confirming JimRob's concerns about Minuteman.

Think before you post, please.

14 posted on 02/21/2005 3:00:04 PM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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To: WestTexasWend

I am vehemently opposed to illegal immigration. I respect and support groups such as American Border Patrol. But folks need to tone down the rhetoric if you want this subject to be allowed on FR. No talk of shoot, shovel and shut up, no condoning of violence. Those are long-standing policies here. So cut the crap.


15 posted on 02/21/2005 3:02:13 PM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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To: dirtboy
Think before you post, please.

Careful. He might get lost in thought--it's probably unfamiliar territory.

16 posted on 02/21/2005 3:04:08 PM PST by Poohbah (God must love fools. He makes so many of them...)
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To: wvobiwan
The veiled language hides a hate-mongering, xenophobic intention to add to the boiling border political climate, said García, co-director of the Human Rights Coalition in Tucson, Ariz.

Yeah, and then we have idiots on FR who call for violence against the illegals and play right into this crapweasel's hands.

You wanna make a difference? Realize that the message needs to be political. Emulate Glen Spencer, whom I had my initial doubts about but who I now support fully. He demonstrated that unmanned drones could be used for border security - and, lo and behold, the new bill about driver's licenses (H.R. 418) provides to further research and deploy that method.

Recognize the battle is not on the border, but in Washington. And make sure your tactics are directed there.

17 posted on 02/21/2005 3:05:44 PM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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To: Poohbah
Careful. He might get lost in thought--it's probably unfamiliar territory.

And chill on the flame bait, please.

18 posted on 02/21/2005 3:09:16 PM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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To: dirtboy

I said bounty, which doesn't require killing anyone. There are tens of thousands of bounty-hunters in the US bringing criminals to justice every day. If there's a bailbondsman in your phone book, there's a bounty-hunter on his payroll. If the price was right they'd cover the border like stink on a goat.

As for standing along our southern border unarmed or unable to fire if fired upon...well, that's just stupid.
Any BP agent will tell you that.


19 posted on 02/21/2005 3:11:37 PM PST by WestTexasWend
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To: SwinneySwitch
"Since Arizona allows it, participants with handgun permits can carry their weapons. Still, they're encouraged to leave them at home because they won't need them", Gilchrist said.

Well, if even a single migrant can smuggle, burgle, rape, or murder, how can they guarantee a weapon won't be needed?

20 posted on 02/21/2005 3:12:01 PM PST by theDentist (The Dems are putting all their eggs in one basket-case: Howard "Belltower" Dean.)
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