Monday, May 23, 2005

Minutemen on the march

As I've recently observed, it's clear the Minutemen are planning on building on their success in obtaining fawning coverage from the press by expanding their project beyond patrolling the Arizona borderlands.

According to a recent Washington Times report, they'll be conducting a similar patrol in California this fall -- with an eye on even broader harassment:
Minuteman organizer James T. Gilchrist, whose 850 volunteers shut down the flow of illegal aliens along a 23-mile section of Arizona-Mexico border last month, has joined forces with another citizens group to help organize a new border vigil in California -- beginning in August.

The Minuteman Project has reached an agreement with the Friends of the Border Patrol (FBP) to help promote a new "border watch" aimed at assisting U.S. Border Patrol agents in apprehending illegal aliens on the California border near San Diego.

FBP Chairman Andy Ramirez said more than 500 volunteers have signed up to patrol areas of the California-Mexico border in August, including former Border Patrol agents, retired police and military personnel and pilots. He said yesterday that at least 2,000 more applications from volunteers nationwide are still being reviewed.

The California vigil will kick off an effort by the Minuteman Project to link anti-illegal immigration groups nationwide and create a network of civilian volunteers along the nation's borders, said Mr. Gilchrist, who lives in Aliso Viejo, Calif. He said he also intends to target employers in the near future who knowingly hire illegal aliens.

It's worth noting, of course, that this campaign apparently will coincide with an initiative in that state that would give them official sanction.

Californians need to think long and hard before giving these extremists their votes. As Amanda Susskind and Joanna Mendelson recently explained in the L.A. Daily News:
[Minuteman organizer Chris] Simcox told a crowd in California in March 2003 that "so far, we've had restraint, but I'm afraid that restraint is wearing thin. Take heed of our weapons because we're going to defend our borders by any means necessary."

Given these sentiments, it is no surprise that the efforts of right-wing extremist groups to take the law into their own hands and administer their own form of "justice" coincide with a wave of border violence in Arizona that has included execution-style slayings. Violent incidents against illegal immigrants have been both brutal and frequent, further intensifying the atmosphere of fear and suspicion on both sides of the border.

The tide of armed vigilantism has risen in Arizona, adding heat and hatred to the desert state, while doing nothing to solve legitimate problems. Whether proclaiming an imminent loss of American "culture" due to immigration or organizing armed patrols to hunt humans, these anti-immigration extremists have deliberately confused border control policy with intolerance and paramilitary activity. They promote a culture of lawlessness and defiance that will only add to, not solve, America's border problems.

Perhaps we should celebrate the work of a handful of anti-Minuteman activists who are now running an apparent counter-harassment campaign of their own:
The Minuteman Project, which operated volunteer watches of the Arizona-Mexico border and plans a California watch in August, is inspiring increasingly organized opposition from churches, college-based groups, and even Internet pranksters.

A person or group called SWARM anonymously posted an Internet site last week asking for Minuteman Project opponents to share tactics to disrupt volunteer recruitment and border watches.

SWARM, which stands for South West Action to Resist the MinuteMen, posted the Web page as early as May 8, and word of its existence ricocheted to supporters and detractors via e-mail, Web logs and Internet news outlets.

The site described how to jam Minuteman Project communications with large e-mail attachments and black-page faxes, to submit phony volunteer applications and even bang pots and pans to interfere with the group's silent night border watches.

"Enough is enough," said the SWARM yellow-and-black home page decorated with drawings of stinger bees. "The MinuteMen function and exist when the rest of us, the vast majority of us, remain silent."

The SWARM Web site disclaimer says it is merely informing the public, not recommending illegal acts.

At the same time it says, "Together, we can conduct information warfare against these modern day white-hooded vigilantes."

Unfortunately, as amusing as tactics like these might be -- and the harassers' objections, in fact, are on the money -- they're only a little amelioration in light of what we're confronted with here. The problem isn't so much the Minutemen and their extremist followers, the likes of who have probably always been with us and always will be, though obviously standing up to them is important.

The real problem is the supposedly mainstream figures -- civic leaders all -- who are endorsing this behavior. These include major media talking heads, a U.S. senator, the Republican governor of California, and a senior official of the Homeland Security Department.

President Bush was exactly right when he labeled them vigilantes. More to the point, they are extremist vigilantes.

Unfortunately, more and more Republicans seem to think that that's just what we need.

No comments: