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'Minuteman Project' drawing protests
By Soniz Melendez
Scripps Howard News Service


March 24, 2005

The FBI, American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican government, Latino activists and the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang are among groups monitoring or protesting the activities of the "Minuteman Project," an Internet-driven organization planning to converge along the Arizona border beginning April 1.

The group, proclaiming its mission is to guard the U.S.-Mexico border against undocumented immigrants, has attracted nearly 1,000 volunteers representing all 50 states and Canada.

In recent weeks the group's Web site has triggered more than one million hits, it claims.

FBI spokeswoman Susan Herskovits said the bureau wants to make sure that no civil rights are violated.

"We are very aware of these activities and we are keeping a close eye on this situation," she said.

The Arizona chapter of the ACLU plans to follow Minuteman participants 10-15 feet distant to ensure no civil rights are violated, according to its spokesman Ray Ybarra.

Also alarmed by the situation, the Mexican government has asked U.S. officials to monitor the vigilante group so Mexican nationals caught during this protest are not abused.

Mexico Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez expressed his concern to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in her trip to Mexico, according to reports.

Armando Navarro, coordinator of the National Alliance for Human Rights, in Riverside, Calif., said the Alliance is launching a bi-national effort to communicate its concerns to members oft Congress, the Bush administration and the Mexican government.

Navarro said he is dissatisfied by the lack of attention Hispanic members of Congress are giving to this mobilization.

"If this issue was impacting African-Americans you would have Jesse Jackson and every organization...calling for a national mobilization against these forces," Navarro said. "Now is the time for Latinos and Mexicanos in particular to make a call for unifying action against this incredible threat that represents itself in the form of the Minuteman Project."

James Gilchrist, Minuteman Project organizer, said he recently learned that leaders of the MS-13 have issued orders to teach them a "lesson."

"We're not worried because half of our recruits are retired trained combat soldiers," he added. "And these guys are just a bunch of punks."


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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