MINUTEMAN PROJECT: I was on the Naco, Arizona/Mexican borderSat Apr 16, 2005 14:422.214.171.124
Daniel Russell and Robin Hvidston, Minutemen from California, keep watch on the border. Robin's account of her experience is at left.
I was on the Naco, Arizona/Mexican border 6am - 2pm daily from Sunday to Wednesday, with two other Minutewomen and two Minutemen.
Below is the story a rancher's wife told me, who lives on 800 acres of land, in the family since the 1880s. Their ranch begins at the Mexican border.
Her name is Robin. She and her husband, Edward, have four children. They came to our Minuteman post requesting that Minutemen be stationed on their nearby property.
Robin said she hears gunshot every night on her ranch. Has no idea exactly where it is coming from.
Since the Minutemen arrived, she claims the gunshots have stopped.
Recently, a drunken illegal alien wandered onto their ranch at night. She was home alone with her children. The illegal alien pounded on their front door. Robin said she and her terrified children crawled on their stomachs to the back of their house to get away from him. While retelling this event, her pretty eyes were filled with both terror and humiliation.
The family's ranch is stampeded by illegal crossings. Years ago, they said their ranch was peaceful and safe. That it was rare to see illegal crossers.
The husband, Edward, said he was recently on his property and was astounded to count over 200 illegal crossers in a group nearby. He said he called the border patrol on his cell phone.
He was told by the woman on the phone that it was not possible to see 200 hundred crossers because they would never cross in such a large group. As he was being told this, the 200 were crossing right before his eyes!
This ranching family thanked us profusely. They said if we needed anything - food, showers, rest - we were welcome at their home. The gruff rancher husband had tears in his eyes when he said goodbye, thanking us.
OUR MINUTEMAN TEAM
In our sector, teams of Minutemen from two to five set up on a hillside along a dirt road ten paces from the border of Mexico. I think we had a total of nine teams. Although too far to talk, you could see a Minuteman team on either side of you. We communicated with each team via walkie-talkie radios.
It was very well organized. We had a MMP supervisor driving by periodically. Each team was encouraged to fly their state flag.
A New York flag was flying from the team to our west and a Florida flag flying from the team to our east. Our team flew an American and a Californian flag combo.
For 8 hour shifts around the clock, Minutemen - a giant neighborhood watch - were armed with binoculars, cells phones and handheld walkie-talkie radios. We set up lawn chairs and umbrellas. Posted a sign that read, "Californians for Secure Borders." In our spare time, we threw a boomerang, flew a kite. We played CDs.
In short, we were noisy and visible. Chris Simcox had said noise was a good thing at a Minuteman post to deter would-be crossers.
There was a showing of border patrol helicopters, border patrol SUVs, sheriff vehicles, border patrol on scooters. In short, there was a steady stream of law enforcement on this normally deserted stretch of border land.
We were told by local ranchers that they have never seen so many border patrol. That this show of force was for the MMP.
THE FENCE/the trash
The barbed wire border fence is a joke. It's about shoulder high.
Our team's section of fence, about a two block area, had four crossing areas. The barbed wire has been stretched and cut to accommodate crossers. On the Mexican side, trails through the desert shrubs lead up to the passage holes in the barbed wire fence.
Some of the holes are large enough to accommodate a pair of crossers walking hand in hand.
Our area was littered with many Gatorade bottles. Many, many plastic bags. Tins of foot fungicide. Deodorant cans.
There were endless numbers of cans, sweatshirts, a hair brush, razors, a cell phone, a little Spanish Bible, many backpacks, sandals, tennis shoes, blankets, a powder puff, tuna cans, Tequila bottles, beer cans, a well used address book in Spanish. We found three one dollar bills rolled up and covered in dirt. One of our Minutewomen found a black ski mask.
There were many toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste.
It is heart breaking to see the beautiful desert literally covered in trash. The trash is just spread all over. If you walk a few steps there is some form of trash within view. Many, many plastic bags fly on trees and shrubs. The size of bags vary from those big, black outdoor trash bags down to the small postcard sized plastic bags.
Where the hell are the environmentalists on this issue of unbelievable trash? Is there anywhere else in the United States with such out of control environmental destruction that gets so little environmental attention? It is perplexing.
The Mexican side was desolate except for a train track and a highway in the distance. Desert foliage was crisscrossed with paths leading to the fence.
MEXICO BEEFS UP ITS FORCE
We read in local newspapers that the Mexican government had beefed up their forces where the MMP were stationed.
For example, a Mexican group on Mexican soil that supposedly rescues crossers, called Grupo Beta, was stationed to encourage crossers approaching the 20 mile MMP teams to return home. We were told military were also in the area.
The Grupo Beta wore bright orange shirts and drove new orange trucks. We usually had one to two trucks within our binocular vision, with several orange coats per truck.
The local ranchers told us that they had never seen these "orange coats" before. It was a first for them.
We watched the orange guys with our binoculars. From our lawn chairs, armed with walkie-talkie radios and bottled waters.
We watched them drive around in their orange trucks. They would park under trees and eat their lunches. Get out and walk around. Go under bridges where migrants camp.
We would from time to time see people who may have been migrants get in the backs of their orange trucks.
One time we saw a group of about 8 single file coming over the horizon. Our entire 9 team section activated. We were radioing each other. All posted with binoculars. We were a buzz!
Well, they turned out to be reporters! American reporters interviewing the Mexican national government workers. They all walked up to the fence, with the "humanitarian" workers and we talked for quite a while.
The humanitarian Mexican worker spoke no English. But interpreters said they wanted to show us a baggy they handed out to crossers with snack bars and water They offered to give us food and water.
Another Mexican national farmer approached us later on horseback and stated illegal crossers only want to work. Again, we had a peaceful conversation.
But what we can say is that while we were posted for 24 hours at our section not one illegal crosser traversed the well-worn paths. They did not walk through the openings in the barbed wire, as they normally do.
Our presence stopped illegal crossings in this area - normally commonplace.
On Tuesday, we did see a young man appear among the orange guys who had a huge rifle slung over his shoulder. The Minutemen in my group knew the rifle make and said it had a scope. This guy was in his 20s, in a tee shirt, black pants and baseball cap. No uniform.
Our entire line watched him through binoculars. He would zigzag around. Talk to the orange coats. Zigzag more. Our radio walkie-talkie info finally declared they thought he was police. He eventually walked out of view over a hill.
When I related the event to a local rancher who stopped by to talk with us, he told me that the guy was definitely a coyote. He also said anyone out there on the Mexican side is part of the bribery and smuggling even if they are government employees.
BORDER PATROL AGENTS
There were border patrol supervisors who would drive around and talk to the press. They would spin a line worthy of Bush and DHS.
But when there were no supervisors around, the rank and file border patrol would occasionally speak to us. It was brave of them as they wear name badges.
One border patrol agent told me that the Mexican humanitarian orange coat guys routinely shake down the crossers. He laughed when I called the Mexican orange coats humanitarians.
Another agent told me that the border patrol was very glad we were there. When we asked about the so called sensors Minutemen were setting off, he laughed and said the spokesmen were saying what they'd been told to say.
He gave us a thumbs up when he drove off. They also communicated that the illegal crossing activity is very well orchestrated and run.
RANCHERS and locals
Our arrival has been controversial among the locals.
I stayed at the Bible College and went to the Bible College church on Sunday. Two pastors focused their talks on their gratitude for the Minutemen. One pastor asked for Minutemen to stand. There were only about five us in attendance.
The pastor then told the church people to go to us and shake our hands. But the churchgoers approached us and hugged us! Some held onto me like I was a life safer! A line formed as mothers, children, old ladies, teens embraced the Minutemen.
We did have locals express discord about MMP, but they were the exception in my experience.
Our night shift had said that a rancher had pulled up in his truck, emerged from the darkness, holding the hands of his two small children and thanked the Minutemen over and over. The night shift Minuteman told me that that the rancher had tears in his eyes as he thanked them. The Minuteman who listened to the rancher and told me of the experience, is a tough, muscular, no nonsense former military guy. But when he told me this story about the rancher, he said his eyes welled up with tears too when the rancher expressed his gratitude.
When a group of us were at a local cafe, a local guy came up and grilled us. Gave us his stories about his mother's property being ransacked by crossers. He then wrote down the name of a section where he asked the Minutemen to go to.
I told the locals that would give me suggestions that they should contact the leadership of MMP with their referrals. I was a peon just following the orders.
If you were a Minuteman, someone would inevitably request you patrol some section.
It absolutely makes my blood boil to think of government letting these hard working American citizens' ranches literally be invaded! I told them all that they are heroes. Most said they will never leave their ranches!
The ACLU types showed up. They wore white tee shirts with orange letters that read "Legal Observers."
As we did a shift, it was always a treat to talk to anyone new. Locals. Reporters. Photographers. Minutemen wandering about.
It wasn't any different when you would come upon an ACLU person. I talked to all of them I saw. We would just chitchat about whatever. Most seemed to be college aged. I told a couple I spoke to that I was glad they were there. I said they didn't want violence and neither did we. I thanked them for being there watching.
After all, with them standing among us, they only made our numbers look bigger before the illegal crossers. In that regard, they made us appear larger in force.
Personally, I had no problem with the ACLU at the MMP. They would just stand around quietly in their matching tee shirts. As the week wore on, I noticed the number of ACLU observers diminished significantly.
It was apparent that where we stood illegal crossings stopped. The shift went by fast because there was always some rumor flying around. Like the day when the rumor went round that 12 rancher skinheads were going to attack the Bible College. There was always somebody new coming up to investigate our team.
Minutemen and ranchers would drive by with all sorts of comments. Reporters from London, Mexico, all over the US were constantly wanting to talk and be led around to see various sites.
And you could look through binoculars and watch the orange guys. Or birds. The media loved to film you looking through the binoculars. I would sometimes just be watching a bird or a butterfly when I was being filmed looking through my binoculars by the media.
I only regret I couldn't stay for the full Minuteman Project! It was awesome. I met some great people from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Kansas, lots of Texans and Californians. Most were just run of the mill, salt of the earth typical hard working American citizens.
And we had a saying, "What happens at the Bible College stays at the Bible College!" Oh, the rumors and stories we heard!
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