April 04, 2005


by PG

Last week from classmates and Begging to Differ, I heard about the "Minuteman Project," what appears to be a more concerted effort at the kind of vigilante border control on which I posted almost a year ago. Some fellow students were discussing whether to volunteer as legal observers through the ACLU, to ensure that the Minutemen did not overreach their alleged mission to enforce immigration law, but worried that the armed Minutemen might react poorly to their presence.

The Associated Press, at least in the Houston Chronicle's version of AP reports, sounds slightly sympathetic to the Minuteman Project. This article on the creative tactics used by wannabe illegal immigrants says, "The flood of illegal immigrants has prompted the creation of the Minuteman Project, in which volunteers fan out across 23 miles of the San Pedro Valley to watch the border and report any illegal activity to federal agents." A piece devoted entirely to the Minutemen gives only a few sentences to the potential downside of the Project: "It's an exercise some law enforcement authorities and others fear could lead to vigilante violence [...] Many of the volunteers were recruited over the Internet, and some plan to be armed."

Probably the most space given to the Minutemen's critics was in the caption of a Reuters photo:

Calling herself a "legal observer," Kristen Dillon monitors the activity of Minuteman Project volunteers near Douglas, Ariz., on Sunday. The "legal observers," who are affiliated with the American Civil Liberties Union, are concerned that illegal immigrants may be harmed.
I am not quite sure why legal observer was put in quotation marks, unless there is an accepted meaning for the phrase that makes it inapplicable to people like Ms. Dillon and thus probably myself as well.

April 4, 2005 11:04 AM | TrackBack

I suspect that that phrase is in quotation marks because it is a direct quotation of Ms. Dillon's remarks. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

There is a subtly amusing irony, by the way, in people opposed to vigilantism organizing in private groups to enforce the law.

Posted by: Tom T. at April 4, 2005 11:15 PM

Good point on both the quotation marks and irony, though I think one qualifies as a vigilante the more one takes over functions properly belonging only to law enforcement. All citizens have a duty to watch for and report illegal actions; whether one ought to behave like a Border Patrol officer, particularly by arming oneself and without having the training or public trust to do so, is more questionable.

Posted by: PG at April 4, 2005 11:25 PM

Good points. Let's hope anyone who shows up armed intends only to use them defensively and not in some Wild-West shooting-gallery fantasy.

Posted by: Tom T. at April 5, 2005 09:24 AM

Seems to me that The Minutemen are just doing what the Department of Homeland Security has encouraged all Americans to do. Whenever the Department issues one of its colorful terrorist alerts, it encourages U.S. citizens to be more alert and to report suspicious sightings or activities to law enforcement agencies. The Minutemen are doing just that, only in a more organized fashion. During WWII, we didn't regard the Civil Defense Corps as 'vigilantes' so why brand the Minutemen as such?

Posted by: William B at April 20, 2005 01:07 PM

The WWII Civil Defense Corps were not vigilantes because they operated under the direction of the federal Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) within the Office of Emergency Planning (OEP) in the Executive Office of the President (EOP). (The OCD was predated by the WWI-era Council of National Defense, which had subsidiary councils at the state and local levels providing additional support.) If the Minutemen had volunteered themselves to local governments and been organized under their oversight, I would have no problem with them at all. It is their lack of deputization by, and coordination with, the people who have been authorized through democratic and lawful processes to engage in border patrol that troubles me.

From what I can tell, the Minutemen are concerned only about our southern border, though I haven't heard of any Islamic terrorists in Mexico and there certainly have been terror plots in Canada. This makes the claim that their amateur border patrols are for national security very difficult to believe.

Posted by: PG at July 19, 2006 02:11 PM
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