Confronting ‘Minutemen’ on the border
Published Aug 4, 2005 9:40 PM
Bumping along in the back
of a small truck on a lonely dirt trail near Campo, Calif., cleared by the
Border Patrol for their use, I am astonished by the desolation of this place.
Here the border between the U.S. and Mexico is nothing more than a flimsy metal
fence. For those who cross here, the border itself poses the most minimal of
As we climb the mountain, making our way towards the
Minutemen’s campsite, I grab my bullhorn, point it toward the border and
shout warnings in Spanish into the darkness: “Good evening, friends. We
are here to warn you that there are Minutemen in the area. They are nearby. They
have come armed and have every intention of hurting you.”
California, on the border, immigrant men, women and children die at a rate of
one per day. Since the initiation of Operation Gatekeeper in 1994, those
attempting to cross have been continuously pushed east, where the climate and
terrain are treacherous and extreme.
Out in the desert, migrants die from
rattlesnake bites, heat exhaustion, fatigue, hunger and dehydration. Some get
lost and are found dead within short distances of a home or town. Many are never
Making matters worse is “Operation Border Watch,”
launched by former Marine James Chase.
Chase, whose rhetoric is more
strident than that of the “official” Minutemen, advised potential
volunteers for his racist campaign to bring baseball bats, mach etes, stun guns,
rifles and shotguns to his camp-out.
Apologists for the Minutemen like
to downplay the added danger they bring to the area, claiming the men are just
older retirees doing their patriotic duty; that they are armed merely with a few
bright lights and binoculars. Many naïve supporters of the Minutemen are
quick to point out that it is illegal to carry firearms in California and that
the Minutemen couldn’t possibly be armed.
A foghorn announces our
arrival at the Minutemen’s camp. Arriving is always a mixture of
adrenaline, fear and excitement. Instantly we are blinded by floodlights. As the
men holding them move closer to us, we hear the sound of guns coming out of
holsters and shotgun shells moving into firing chambers. Soon the racist verbal
attacks and slurs start flying out of their mouths, as do threats to shoot us.
How different the reality of this ugly, Nazi-like mobilization in San
Diego County is from the way it is nightly prettied up by CNN commentator Lou
Dobbs. The well-remunerated Dobbs has the full backing of his boss, corporate
media giant CNN, in his efforts to publicize and proselytize for the
And standing behind CNN is a significant
section of the ruling class that has decided that a full-blown national campaign
of scapegoating immigrant workers is the way to go. No one should underestimate
the political significance of this media campaign. As the Bush dream of global
empire crashes to earth in the Iraqi desert, ways must be found to divert the
anger of the masses, and immigrant workers have always been an easy
There needs to be a national campaign in defense of immigrant
workers—documented and undocumented. Plans are underway for a regional
fight-back mobilization when the Minutemen bring reinforcements to San Diego on
Sept. 16. But a simultaneous National Day of Action would be even better.
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