Monday, October 31, 2005

Minutemen Quietly Set Up in Valley with Help of Landowners

Pharr, Texas- Hundreds of Minutemen volunteers have kept a watchful eye along parts of the Rio Grande Valley and say they won’t give up until it is secure. Earlier this month in Falfurrias, members of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps kicked off the Secure Our Borders Campaign, which continues through the end of the month.

While patrols in Falfurrias drew heavy media coverage, the group quietly began reconnaissance missions in the Valley in August and beefed up patrols Labor Day weekend. "The only people that knew were the landowners and us," said Mike Vickers, one of the local organizers of the activist Minuteman Project based in Falfurrias. "We are making a difference (in the Rio Grande Valley)," he said. "We’re set up and helping the Border Patrol do a more effective job."

The group, made up of civilian volunteers who call the Border Patrol when they see undocumented immigrants, was expected to head to "hot spots" in Valley shortly after the Texas chapter formed in June. Although heavily criticized by local civil rights organizations, the Minuteman project ventured on and now boasts various patrols across a dozen states.

In April, the Minutemen patrolled the Arizona-New Mexico borders; however, they encountered a few problems in doing so. In Texas, Vickers said, they feel the benefit of setting up stations on private property. "We’re not going in and disturbing the area," said Vickers, a Falfurrias-area veterinarian. "If any protesters step foot on private property, they are going straight to jail for trespassing."

Although he could not disclose the exact areas of patrol he did say volunteers are set up through parts of Zapata, Starr and Hidalgo counties. In the future, the group hopes to stretch their presence from Zapata to Brownsville. "We’re covering all of our positions in these counties," he said.

In the Valley alone, about 500 volunteers have participated in the daily patrols. Minutemen leaders have asked each volunteer to recruit 30 more for deployment to the southern border. "People go back to work, go back home when their time is up and then before we know it we have new people showing up," Vickers said.
Local leaders, who could not be reached for comment late Thursday, reported some "excitement by the border," where a coyote was seen picking up a group of illegal immigrants — all caught on tape, Vickers said.

In addition to areas along the Rio Grande, volunteers will setup stations around major crossing points where undocumented immigrants travel once crossing they have crossed the border. "We get on highways and find the pickup and drop off points to find them," Vickers said. "But we want to stop (it) at the river bank."It doesn’t matter how long we will be (in the Valley). But we’ll be there until the lawlessness across South Texas stops."

Minuteman Civil Defense Corps volunteer Dave R. Summers, a retired school administrator from Dallas, surveys the banks of the Rio Grande on Thursday just east of the Pharr International Bridge

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