May 1, 2005


What 'minuteman' vigil accomplished: A volunteer network's effort to close part of border slowed illegal immigration - in one small area. (Daniel B. Wood, 5/02/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

The volunteer Minuteman Project finished its month-long vigil on a 20-mile strip of the Arizona-Mexico border this weekend, claiming success in its two-fold mission of highlighting the issue of illegal immigration in the US and showing that the border could be effectively closed with proper manpower.

In the end, the civilian patrols proved not to be the disruption that many critics had predicted - even the Border Patrol, which had been skeptical, said there were few mishaps between illegal immigrants and the citizen volunteers. But neither did it offer conclusive evidence that a human dragnet, no matter how large, could shut down the entire US-Mexican border.

For one thing, some 900 volunteers were involved in watching just a 20-mile stretch of desert. To extend the same manpower to the entire 1,400-mile border would require more than 60,000 people - and probably a permanent presence, experts note. Moreover, reports indicate that some Mexicans and other would-be immigrants were avoiding this stretch of Arizona while the lookout was going on

But didn't we all sleep a little more securely in April?

The 15-Second Men (Marc Cooper, May 1, 2005, LA Times)

For two solid weeks, thousands of news stories cascaded from the hardscrabble border zone, focusing on what was, in reality, a group of True Believers whose real numbers were tiny.

Though the Minuteman organizers vowed that 1,600 or more mad-as-hell volunteers had signed up for duty and that "potentially several thousands" would participate in the kickoff rallies during April Fools' weekend, turnout was an unmitigated flop — less than a tenth of the promised throngs showed up at the rallies. The entire Minuteman spectacle, indeed, easily qualified for that journalistic catchall phrase, "a fizzle," but virtually none of the news media reported it as such.

On its opening day, I could count no more than 135 participants, even at the two kickoff public rallies along the Arizona border. At one near the border town of Douglas, two dozen reporters and a handful of TV cameras swarmed over no more than 10 Minutemen — most of them sitting in lawn chairs or in pickup truck beds. During the entire kickoff weekend, the media troops clearly outnumbered the Minutemen. And in the days that followed, piecing together the various reports and reading between the lines, it's obvious that the Minuteman numbers dwindled to no more than a few dozen at a time. If that many people marched down Hollywood Boulevard for any cause, who'd report it?

Indeed, only 18 days into the monthlong project, the effort collapsed. Predictably, a few hundred illegal immigrants had chosen not to cross in that area during the media ruckus. Minuteman organizers preposterously declared victory, claiming they had shut down the border to illegal immigration and packed off home.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 1, 2005 10:52 PM

reports indicate that some Mexicans and other would-be immigrants were avoiding this stretch of Arizona while the lookout was going on

You'd really have to hold some nasty stereotypes about Hispanic intelligence levels to think they'd do otherwise.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 2, 2005 1:59 AM

Isn't that like saying that we shouldn't stop speeding cars, on the basis that creating roadblocks on every corner is prohibitively expensive?

Posted by: at May 2, 2005 2:54 AM

The desire most people have to drive above the speed limit is not so great that they will rush off to an area with a paucity of policemen and floor it. Most people seeking to come to America are, however, very desperate and will seek any way possible to get in. They also aren't stupid: they will not run straight into an area where they are likely to be caught. The Minutemen loudly announced their presence and illegals therefore went around them rather than trying to go through them.

I personally have no problem with closely guarding the border for national security purposes (I'd be open to possibly increasing our levels of legal immigration if we better funded the necessary authorities). However, the Minuteman project was a publicity stunt -- which admittedly can have its uses, although physically stopping many illegal immigrants was never a likely result.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 2, 2005 3:43 AM

By pushing matters into public view, the Minutemen did a patriotic service for which they are to be congratulated. What we need now is for Congress to figure out a way to work with Mexico to regulate the flow inbound. It really doesn't matter whether a million, ten million or a hundred million immigrants come in so long as they are not a drain on our social services and a criminal problem, thus we need to pick and choose who gets in, not merely allow the 'Boomer Sooner' method we've seen for decades.

Posted by: bart at May 2, 2005 11:24 AM

Why? It works.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2005 11:52 AM

Take a look at crime and welfare rates along the border and try again OJ. We cannot maintain the kind of welfare state protections we provide and allow anyone who wants to enter to do so. All it does is attract people who want to go on public assistance. The pressure on the governments of border states is enormous, as Arnold stated the other day. And I hardly think you'd call him anti-immigrant.

Posted by: bart at May 2, 2005 12:06 PM

We always have. My granparents stood at the docks shooing you lot away.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2005 12:14 PM