Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Minutemen, a Shame for Arizona and Showing Disrespect for U.S. History

A group of men calling themselves the Minutemen have arrived in Arizona and have been talking about patrolling sections of the border between Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora. To most who live in Arizona, they are not welcome.

In case there is anyone reading this who doesn’t know who the Minutemen are, they are a group of mostly middle-aged white men, headed by two men from California, who portray themselves as an aide to the Border Patrol in stopping illegal border crossers in Southeastern Arizona. They have announced their intention to mount patrols to look for people crossing illegally, and on at least one occasion they took up positions on lawn chairs on the border near the city of Douglas for the benefit of press photographers.

The leader of the Minutemen is Jim Gilchrist, a retired accountant from Orange County California. His right-hand man is Chris Simcox, the new owner of the Tombstone Tumbleweed newspaper and who also hails from California, although he has been living in Tombstone, Arizona for the past three years.

When members of the Minutemen spot an illegal border crosser, they are supposed to notify the Border Patrol and not confront the immigrant, but some opponents of the movement including both the U.S. and Mexican governments have expressed the fear that the Minutemen could illegally detain and even injure Mexican nationals. Adding to that fear is the fact many Minutemen are armed “for self-defense.”

The Border Patrol says that it detained 1.1 million illegal crossers along the Mexican border in 2004 and that 52 percent of them crossed the 370-mile stretch that separates Arizona and Sonora, so the Minutemen are undoubtedly correct when they say that the Arizona border has a problem. However, the Border Patrol claims that the Minutemen are a detriment to border enforcement rather than a help, getting in the way, tripping sensors, and causing false alarms. The Border Patrol also fears that it could run into a group of armed Minutemen along the border at night, and that in the confusion, someone could be injured or killed.

The Minutemen are few in number. They have seldom been able to gather more than about 150 people. However, this small group has managed to draw a great deal of media attention from both sides of the border. If the Minutemen have been better at drinking beer and posing for press photographers than at detaining illegal border crossers, their media attention seems to have indirectly contributed to more border security by lighting a fire under the U.S. federal government. In the spring of 2005, Robert Bonner, the head of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, hightailed it to Tucson just before a large Minuteman gathering to announce that Arizona would receive 155 additional Border Patrol officers and 23 aircraft to guard the border.

The Minutemen should go back to California. They have given Arizona an underserved reputation for racism and a vigilante mentality. They are a hindrance to the cross-border relations, and they have little effect on illegal immigration. The name they have chosen to call themselves is an insult to the memory of the genuine Minutemen who fought for American independence. If they want to meddle in border affairs, let them call themselves the Southern California Drinking Club and hold their publicity events in San Diego, closer to home.

What do you think. Please click on "comments" below and add your opinion.


gage said...

Hi Jack,
I agree, groups like the "Minutmen" are a disgrace, beer and Fox News are never a good combination. I lived in Mexico during the Pete Wilson governorship, I dont think the average American realizes how much animosity was brewing south of the border at that time (remember prop. 187) No longer is the welcome mat out for ``your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses . . . if there from Mexico that is.

gage said...

sp. correction..."minutemen"

Jack Quinn said...

Thanks for your comments gage. Yes, Pete Wilson created a lot of animosity among Hispanics on both sides of the border. The funny thing is, he began his political career as a liberal and started playing the anti-Hispanic card only when he got presidential ambitions. I think it he calculated that he could ride the redneck vote all the way to the White House. However, his anti-Hispanic rhetoric backfired. Californians refused to reelect him, proving that they were not so easy to manipulate. That defeat ended Mr. Wilson’s political career. – Jack Quinn