Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Skeptical But Fed Up, Ranchers Meet Minutemen

Folks need to be aware that these paramilitary folks are coming to Texas. If you want to learn more about these groups, check out their websites:
the American Resistance or T.A.R. and The Minuteman Headquarters. This symbolic violence and the threat of real violence is not only scary but racist.

They claim being against not immigration but the illegality of it. If they were so against the illegality of it and not the people, they would work within the system and adopt a constructive policy approach to address the factors that create the need to migrate to begin with.

That they're knowingly only treating the symptoms and not the root causes of immigration means that their efforts are largely symbolic. Symbolic of what, we should ask. The Minutemen and the American Resistance like to pass themselves off as "American patriots." Nothing could be farther from the truth. Their presence should concern us all.


Associated Press Writer

GOLIAD, Texas — The leader of a volunteer border-patrol group that began in Arizona told Texans Monday night he believes there is enough support in their state to form four chapters of the Minuteman Project.

The group, which drew international attention for monitoring the Arizona-Mexico border in April, plans to do the same in October, most notably along the Texas-Mexico border where drug-related violence has escalated in recent months.

Minuteman president Chris Simcox, who spoke Monday at a town meeting of about 250 people in Goliad, said one of the chapters would be expected in this historic Texas town of about 2,000 residents. Others would be in the Rio Grande Valley and in the Midland-Odessa area, he said.

"This is a political protest," he told the audience, most of whom began to clap. "You are voters and taxpayers and you are tired of not seeing a return on your investment."

The meeting drew several sheriffs from counties in the region and began with a video that linked images of the Sept. 11 tragedy with a message that President Bush and Congress are ignoring border security. During a question-and-answer session, emotions ran high as several Mexican-Americans engaged in heated debate with Simcox.

Illegal immigrants "come here for a better life," shouted Richard Villarreal of Goliad, echoing the feeling of several protesters outside. "I know what these (Minuteman) chapters are. The KKK had chapters."

Simcox responded: "We're no different than any other neighborhood watchdog group."

From here, Simcox is headed to California, Michigan and Canada where he said he has supporters ready to form chapters. Two chapters have formed in New Mexico, and requests for chapters to start have been received in all 50 states, he said.

Goliad-area landowners are among a reported 7,000 Texans supporting the Minuteman movement. Some South Texans are joining because they're tired of the periodic damage they say illegal immigrants have caused on their multi-thousand acre ranches, said Kenneth Buelter, from Sarco, where a united pocket of ranchers have reported high-speed vehicles and human smuggling in recent months.

They say the answer may be the Minuteman Project, which trains volunteers to spot suspected illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S. and contact local police. Still, their activities have been met with suspicion and concern from politicians, law enforcement officers and some South Texas residents who say the group is made up of vigilantes and possibly racists.

Despite urging from state legislators and members of Congress, Gov. Rick Perry has said he can't stop them from conducting legal activity along the border.

Unlike Arizona, where the border is largely public land, the Texas-Mexico border is mostly privately owned, overwhelmingly Hispanic and more urban. Minuteman opponents wonder how the volunteers will distinguish illegal immigrants from legal Hispanic residents. Supporters say they will use volunteers who own the land and already have familiarity with its illegal immigration patterns.

In Goliad County, Sheriff Robert DeLaGarza, who attended the Monday meeting, said he will not endorse the Minuteman Project but has met with Simcox, who assured him the group's tactics would remain within the law. He foresees minutemen simply contacting his agency to report suspicious activity without using weapons or engaging in confrontations.

"Local residents have been doing that anyway," DeLaGarza said. "So far from what I've heard, this is just bringing in publicity."

Simcox said that the meeting's location in Goliad, about 200 miles north of the border, is pure coincidence. In 1836, Mexican forces massacred Texas revolutionaries in a skirmish that is remembered in the battle cry: "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!"

Others see the location as significant.

"I felt it was fitting that the first Texas chapter start here," said Bill Parmley, a Goliad rancher who invited the Minutemen.

Parmley said local ranchers have complained that illegal immigrants have broken their fences and left piles of trash at campsites, among other damages.

Goliad, southeast of San Antonio, has become a hub for smuggling illegal immigrants. DeLaGarza said authorities have struggled to contain the problem. His police force is limited to 13 deputies who cover a 1,000-square-mile county.

Not all law enforcement in Texas is open to the help.

Laredo police spokesman Juan Rivera said any citizen has a right to contact police about illegal immigration. But he said officers will crack down on anyone who doesn't have proper concealed handgun documentation, is trespassing or disrupting police duties on the border.

"If we find they are hindering our operations, they're going to be held accountable," he said. "We've been doing this for a long time, and we know our territory better than anybody."

Also at the Monday meeting were a handful of members from Goliad's chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens whose president, Benny Martinez, met with Minutemen leaders beforehand.

"I hope they don't abuse people," he said. "I hope they can distinguish them from me. My family's been here for over 200 years."

Simcox assured Hispanic leaders that his group would not be armed and would only report suspicious activity.


June 20, 2005 - 9:21 p.m. CDT
Copyright 2005, The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP Online news report may not be published, broadcast or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

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