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Minutemen's message on immigration: on a roll?

The activist group will pass through 12 US cities during a push for tighter US borders. Polls show most Americans support that.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / May 5, 2006


Construction worker John Peaslee drove 100 miles from Kern County to cheer, wave an American flag, and send a message to the US government to "close the border, period."

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Microbiologist Heather Evans took the morning off work to "stand up for the US Constitution ... without which we will lose the American culture, country, and values," she says.

Lyman Stucky will dedicate the next two weeks and "a few tanks of gas" to caravan all the way to Washington to "urge people to stand up and encourage others to do what's right: Obey the law, that's what makes America great."

Their passions high, members of the Minuteman Project set off from Los Angeles Wednesday on a cross-country trip that they hope will be a counterpoint to the immigrants-rights rallies that have lately flooded the streets of American cities. The group, which has dispatched hundreds of volunteers to patrol the US-Mexico border to help prevent illegal crossings, filled only a handful of cars, small trucks, and minivans at the outset - but insists that a majority of Americans are fellow travelers when it comes to controlling immigration.

"The immigrants have put a million on the streets in recent days, woop de doo," says Steve Eichler, executive director of the Minuteman Project, who was at the departure site, and is on the caravan trip. "We will put 10, 20, 30 million voters on our side at the ballot box."

Recent polls would lend credibility to that assertion. A Zogby poll taken May 3 found that 71 percent of Americans feel that past border enforcement efforts have been grossly inadequate" while only 19 percent say the US has made a "real effort" to enforce such laws. By a 2 to 1 margin, likely voters prefer the "enforcement only" House bill that passed in December to current Senate proposals, which legalize illegal immigrants currently in the US and increase legal immigration quotas.

At the caravan launch, the group expressed outrage about the recent protests in the streets of American cities, and is encouraging others to join them in support for minutes, hours, or days.

"We are going to speak out all across the south about what I call the Trojan Horse invasion of the US," said Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, to a gathering of perhaps 300 people in the Crenshaw section of Los Angeles. The Minutemen gathered in a black neighborhood to show the "devastating" impact illegal immigration is having on local employment, the activists say. The caravan will pass through 12 cities in 10 days, stopping to rally followers with speeches. It will end up in the US capital May 12. At the second rally in Phoenix Wednesday night, about 300 participated. Caravan participants will demonstrate Saturday in Crawford, Texas, where President Bush's vacation ranch is located.

"We are trying to continue the momentum we built last year with border vigils," says Mr. Gilchrist, a former Marine. "We proved how Congress has refused to listen to the will of Americans ... [by] continuing to allow this massive illegal incursion into our country."