Monday, October 24, 2005

Minutemen: vigilantes or sentinals of security?

A story that has been percolating in the background is that of the volunteers who call themselves "Minutemen", patrolling the US southern border with Mexico on an ad hoc basis. The White House has called them "vigilantes", but they have many supporters, including a good part of the US Border Patrol.

The Washington Times has an updated story On the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, "Minuteman volunteers vow to keep border secure". Here are quotes from some of the volunteers:

"In the post-September 11 world, we have to have a secure border," Mr. Murphy said. "That's why I'm here. That's why we all are here. That's the message we want to send to Washington."

Mr. Hendricks, a software consultant, said the Minuteman effort here -- part of a massive border vigil all along the U.S.-Mexico border and in seven states along the Canadian border -- is aimed at persuading the government to provide adequate border security. "The White House and Congress must be accountable to the American people and a secure border is imperative in this time of international terrorism, drugs and rising illegal immigration," he said.

Robert Wright, the Hobbs, N.M., businessman who organized the New Mexico effort, said the goal of the Minuteman vigil is to "keep pressure on Washington to come up with an effective border enforcement program to secure the nation's borders."

Software consultants volunteering their time to protect our borders? Doesn't sound like vigilantism. Here is a sample from the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps "About us" page:

You are here because you are willing to challenge our government to fulfill their constitutionally mandated responsibility, not because you want to fight them, but because you want to challenge them by fulfilling their obligation in their absence. You are willing to become force-multipliers in the absence of Congressional and Presidential will.

Composing letters, e-mails and faxes did not make an impression on our public servants. Now we will assert ourselves as citizen representatives of the government. We are citizens who set the example, of the people for the people and by the people.

We will succeed. If we are to send the message loud and clear to President Bush and Congress, it is imperative that we stay within the law. If one single individual steps over the line for their personal gratification, we are all stained with that irresponsible behavior, and labeled forever as a fringe element that embarrasses all who are counting on us to make this historic statement.

Sure doesn't sound like a radical group. Or is the notion of taking it upon ourselves to protect our country radical? Minnesota has an international border. Are we not concerned about who is crossing into our state? In fact, the Minutemen are expanding to the northern border, "Minuteman Project Expands to Northern Border":

( - The Minuteman Project, which a group of citizens launched last April in Arizona to protect the border against the infiltration of illegal aliens from Mexico, is expanding on Oct. 1.

Minuteman volunteers will add the rest of the Mexican border and eight states along the Canadian border to their patrolling responsibilities. The group not only hopes to spot and report illegal immigrants trying to sneak into the U.S. It will ratchet up the pressure on politicians to take action against illegal immigration and picket/advertise against businesses who hire illegal immigrants.

Leaders of the Minuteman Project reportedly want to patrol the Canadian border in order to guard against terrorists, drug smugglers, and other criminal elements that they fear might try to slip across.
It's tempting to label the Minutemen as radicals, scofflaws, or troublemakers. The reality is that the initial effort, known as the Minuteman Project, was very successful and trouble-free. The section of the southern border they patrolled experienced a sharp decline in illegal border crossers. They had the support of the rank-and-file Border Patrol agents, if not the brass.

If the federal government won't secure our borders, and willing, law-abiding citizens take up the cause, who are we to complain?