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During the next to the last week of the vigil Richard Humphries, a Minuteman coordinator and local resident, took me in his jeep along the border between Naco and the San Pedro River. As we traveled the rutted road we saw no signs of illegal entry along what had been just three weeks before a major route of illegal entry. The countryside was deserted except for a rancher driving his pick-up truck on the other side of the rickety border fence, and a lone man casually walking towards a corral near the San Pedro River which is used as a staging ground for illegal crossings.
“Que tal! A donde va?” we asked (meaning: “Hi! Where are you going”)? With a broad grin he said in English, “The United States.” If that is what he had in mind he was one of the very few that month, at least along that stretch of the line.
When asked how things were going, a Border Patrolman on duty smiled and said suggestively, “Quiet.” We chatted with another on-duty agent for a few minutes. As we were leaving he called out, “I’m not supposed to say this, but you guys are doing a great job!” and then gave a big thumbs-up.
The Border Patrol management seems to have thought that the Minutemen had done an effective job, because after the project had ended and the volunteers had gone home, agents at Naco were told not to arrest illegal aliens in their section for fear that a jump in the apprehension rate would confirm the project’s success.
Critics say the project did nothing more than push the stream of migration around the manned observation posts. Minutemen, however, said that their presence proved that border controls could work if serious vigils were mounted similar to the one they operated during the month of April. Since the formal democratic process remains closed to the majority of the public on this issue, it will take more such demonstrations before the political elites become responsive to a major policy issue that involves such serious consequences both for the short and the long term.
Chris Simcox promises more border watches along both the Mexican and the Canadian borders. And a border watch is planned for California in August or earlier, apparently with the approval of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This much is certain: People along the border where the Minutemen held their watch appreciated the peaceful month it gave them. In a half-page ad in the Sunday Sierra Vista Herald local residents told them: “Thanks for doing what our government won’t… close the border to illegal aliens. It was the quietest month we’ve had in many years… you made us feel safe.”
Glynn Custred is professor of anthropology at California State University, Hayward, and coauthor of the California Civil Rights Initiative, Proposition 209. This article appeared as the cover story in the July/August issue of The American Spectator. To subscribe, please click here.
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