State doesn’t need help of ‘Minutemen’

By Ned Cantwell: State Columnist

Picture this. You are a Mexican fellow wanting to slip into the United States to do work Americans sneer at. Your family is hungry. You want more than anything to improve their lot.

So you make your way to the Mexico-Arizona border and prepare to cross. But then you look to the American side and are perplexed by an almost comical tableau.

There are the feared U.S. Border Patrol cars hoping to thwart your passage, the ever-vigilant guards on the lookout.
There are a bunch of city dudes who call themselves “Minutemen” wandering the desert decked out in camouflage fatigues and boasting the fanciest outdoor gear their upstate New York Wal-Mart has to offer. They have come here from all over the country to spice up boring lives by casting themselves in a Rambo plot. Binoculars trained, they are keeping a keen eye on the border.

Keeping a keen eye on the Minutemen is the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is intent on making sure that as the Minutemen tramp along the border, they don’t tramp on civil rights.

Following all these people around, armed with notebooks, computers and cameras, is yet another group of folks: the ever-present media.

So there you are, watching all of this from the Mexican side, and you have to be thinking, “Do I really want to take up residence in that nutty country?”

The Minuteman Project is a bad idea and the ACLU is right on target with its opposition. That our country must regain control of its borders is without question. Accomplishing this with play soldiers sets up frightening possibilities.

And guess what? According to KOB-TV in Albuquerque, the Minutemen plan to bring their experiment to New Mexico in May. No one much likes the idea. “Well, I don’t like the Minuteman movement,” Gov. Bill Richardson told the TV interviewer. “I believe that having Minutemen, individual citizens without licenses, without training, is not the way to go.”

Max Martinez of the League of United Latin American Citizens takes more direct aim: “I think these people are just a bunch of bigots hiding under a cloak of terrorism.”

Not necessarily. More likely, most of those folks getting stuck by prickly cacti are well intentioned. But the governor has it right. They are not trained, and there is no significant selection process to screen kooks and charlatans.

One of the project spokesmen, Fred Eibel, contends we “do not detain anybody,” and “we simply observe; we look and we report.”

That being the case, one wonders why a volunteer from New York is described as follows in an Arizona Republic report: “(He) spent the first shift of patrols watching the border, a 9mm handgun on his hip.” Why does a mere observer need a gun?

Or why the Mexican government is investigating charges that Minutemen detained 13 migrants. Or why, if the Minutemen are so forthright and serious about this work, a Minuteman persuades an illegal Mexican immigrant to pose with a T-shirt reading, “Bryan Barton caught an illegal alien and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”

Having volunteers patrolling the border makes no more sense than encouraging citizens to set up lawn chairs outside the community’s suspected drug house and take pictures of those who enter. It is a powder keg, and New Mexico doesn’t need it.

Ned Cantwell welcomes feedback at: ncantwell@charter.net