American volunteers, and even some Mexicans, are patrolling a part of the U.S. border with Mexico, searching for illegal newcomers. They call themselves the Minutemen, and say they are acting because the Bush administration has not done enough to stop the flow of illegal immigrants across the southern border.
The Minutemen and their supporters descended on the Arizona-Mexico border towns of Douglas and Naco last weekend to kick off their month long project. They're self-appointed citizen border patrollers who have come from all over the United States in an effort to draw attention to the area's porous borders. Border Patrol officials say more people crossed into the United States in this area last year than any other place in the country.
Most of the Minutemen say they voted for President Bush in the last election but they say they are fed up with what they see as the administration's lackluster approach to sealing the border. They say the nation's security and the integrity of federal immigration laws are at stake.
At a rally in Douglas, Minutemen project co-founder, Jim Gilchrist, stood on the back of a pick-up truck and used a bull-horn to tell the crowd, including journalists, that the Minutemen are not outlaws.
"I'm gonna do what Martin Luther King did. We're gonna use his philosophy," said Mr. Gilchrist. "We will observe. We will report. We will support law enforcement. we will not interfere with them. We will do no harm…..and….. we will be victorious."
The citizen patrols, which started Monday, appears to making some progress.
"The Mexican government is moving them out of this area," said Robert Fagan, one of the volunteers. "We observe them out there everyday. And, well, there's nine of them over there under them trees right now."
Several hours before, Mr. Robert Fagan and his fellow minutemen watched the group walk towards the trees a short distance away from the barbed wire border and then crouch down. Fagan's group called the border patrol to look into it. In the meantime, they'll keep their eyes trained on the stand of trees, looking for movement.
Lupe Moreno is Mexican and a Minutemen. She says her father was a coyote - a smuggler of illegal immigrants and that her involvement with the Minutemen is a way for her to make amends for her father's past.
"You know what there's a lot of Latinos out here, Hispanics. I've talked to about four or five," said Ms. Moreno. "They're fighting like me which makes me so proud! We're gonna get together and we're gonna even fight harder."
Ms. Moreno knows her alliance with the Minutemen is not popular within the Mexican community but believes her American patriotism comes before her heritage.
"If I don't do it then who else is gonna do it ? I have to be out there," she said. "We have to do this. It has to be done."
The Minutemen project is drawing criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union, immigrants rights groups, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. President Bush has not released an official statement since the project got underway this weekend but he derided the Minuteman at a press conference last week - calling them vigilantes.