Minuteman Civil Defense Corps
Minuteman Civil Defense Corps
ALTERNATE NAME: The Minuteman Project
LEADER: Chris Simcox
YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 2005
USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: United States
The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, also called the Minuteman Project, is an organization concerned with border security that invokes the image of Revolutionary War militiamen, ready at a moment's notice to fight for America's freedom. Although the majority of the group's members are white, some Mexican Americans work to patrol the borders as well, deeply invested in the organization's call for legal immigration as a measure to protect American society and American resources.
In January 2003, Chris Simcox, an Arizona newspaper publisher, was arrested by federal park rangers on a stretch along the Arizona-Mexico border. Simcox was armed with a single pistol, police scanner radios, and was charged with a misdemeanor, subsequently serving a year on probation. His goal: to stop illegal Mexican border crossings.
On April 1, 2005, Simcox led a group of 900 volunteers in an effort to patrol a twenty-three-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, preaching the goal of informing border patrol officials of violations. Simcox's efforts have spread to other border states, including Vermont and New York. Simcox dubbed the movement the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (also known as the Minuteman Project). Although Simcox himself advocates law-abiding activity on the part of the volunteers—using "standard operating procedure," and simply verbally informing federal border patrol guards of illegal border crossings—his movement has spawned copycat vigilante groups and allegations of intimidation and violence on the part of border patrol volunteers.
Chris Simcox, the leader of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, traces his "awakening" on the issue of protecting American borders to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania. In 2002, he founded the Civil Homeland Defense Corps, the precursor to the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. By 2003, his ideas had evolved into a desire for vigilantism, patrolling the borders to prevent illegal immigration. It was his belief that the federal border patrol officers were too lax in their work; after watching a convoy of trucks from Mexico flanked by men carrying AK-47s and seeing the border patrol fail to act, Simcox decided to patrol borders on his own, which led to his arrest and misdemeanor conviction.
Over the next two years, he reshaped his image; his efforts evolved into the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, also called the Minuteman Project.
On April 1, 2005, the organization gained national attention when 900 volunteers gathered to patrol twenty-three miles of border between Arizona and Mexico. Simcox claimed that the volunteers' efforts decreased illegal border crossings by 98%, but federal officials dispute these numbers. The group was hailed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Simcox used his web site to promote the group's experiences to expand Minuteman to as many as sixteen states.
PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS
The group's slogans include "Americans doing the jobs Congress won't do," and "Operating within the law to support enforcement of the law." Most Minutemen do not vilify the illegal immigrants themselves; in fact, Simcox and others publicly state that they believe the illegal immigrants are victims of problems in their own society and of American corporations eager for cheap labor to boost profits.
Simcox addresses potential Minuteman recruits on his web site by appealing to their sense of law, order, and justice: "You are considering joining the Minuteman HQ not because of bias towards people from another country, but rather because you feel your government owes the citizens of the United States protection from people who wish to take advantage of a free society. We demand that President Bush, members of Congress and the Senate maintain an orderly queue of entry into our country. We are three years post September 11, 2001, and still our government is more concerned with securing the borders of foreign lands than securing the borders of the United States. Enough is enough."
Chris Simcox, the forty-three-year-old leader of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps (also known as the Minuteman Project), is the former publisher of the Tombstone, Arizona, Tombstone Tumbleweed newspaper. After teaching at a private school in California for thirteen years, he turned to publishing shortly after the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil on September 11, 2001. He drained his savings to buy the newspaper and used it to disseminate his ideas about illegal immigration, border crossings, and political issues.
The group's rhetoric appeals to white American men from lower socio-economic classes, many of whom are displaced from manufacturing jobs that pay a family wage by Mexican immigrants—both legal and illegal—who are willing to work for less than half of the standard American wages. Simcox's appeal to these men is simple: by patrolling the borders as citizen "militias" and bringing attention to the cause of illegal border crossings, Americans can make a difference through action.
Ranch Rescue, a different vigilante group that aims to stop illegal border crossings, uses a more violent approach and is often confused with the Minutemen. The Minutemen do not advocate violence. Simcox advises volunteers to bring video cameras to document illegal border crossings and to give the tapes to federal officials. Minutemen have been accused of racial profiling, however, approaching persons of color, asking whether they speak English, asking where they live, and questioning them while not quizzing Caucasians in the same areas.
The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps web site spells out a "standard operating procedure" for Minutemen, which includes directives such as "Minutemen are courteous to everyone with whom they come into contact, and never discriminate against anyone for any reason."
The group holds up an American ideal as part of its appeal for volunteers; illegal immigration is portrayed as the reason for the loss of high-paying manufacturing jobs, health care crises in emergency rooms on the borders, education problems in border state districts, and other socio-economic problems.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is strongly opposed to the actions of the Minuteman Project. The Executive Director for the ACLU of Arizona, Eleanor Eisenberg, states that: "We recognize the right of a country to defend its borders but it must be done by the proper authorities and in a humane way. Too many migrants, coming to this country for the jobs we offer, have died in the desert from heat, dehydration and exhaustion. It would be even more tragic to have migrants die as a result of violence." Eisenberg accuses the Minutemen of using harassment and threats in the course of their patrols. The ACLU was present during the April 2005 Minuteman campaign, and arguments frequently broke out between the opposing sides.
Using the Internet, weblogs, and word of mouth, The Minuteman Project has drawn interest from over 15,000 volunteers thus far, responding to Simcox's call to act. Members of Congress, such as U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein have expressed concern about the group's intent, calling for the addition of 2,000 new border patrol agents, rather than the possible vigilantism of hundreds or thousands of untrained, unregulated volunteers.
- Chris Simcox founds the Civil Homeland Defense organization, to patrol borders.
- Leader Chris Simcox arrested on the Arizona border; charged with misdemeanor for carrying a loaded pistol, sentenced to one year of probation.
- Renaming the group the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (also known as The Minuteman Project), 900 volunteers patrol a twenty-three-mile section of the Arizona-Mexico border.
Ellingwood, Ken. Hard Line: Life and Death on the U.S.-Mexican. New York: Pantheon, 2004.
Salon.com. "The Angry Patriot" 〈http://www.salon. com/news/feature/2005/05/11/minuteman/〉 (accessed October 23, 2005).