While U.S. border states have a long history of local citizen groups engaging in “law enforcement” in the form of scouting for and reporting surreptitious border crossers, this year a large and highly organized effort has appeared called the Minuteman Project, fueling new concerns from the Mexican government for the human rights of its citizens.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez said Monday that the Mexican government will take legal action against any vigilante militia groups at the U.S.-Mexico border who harm or violate the rights of undocumented migrants crossing into the United States.
So far, Gilchrist said he had received more than 800 applications from U.S. citizens who wanted to volunteer with the project.
“People have portrayed us as being violent and wanting to shoot and kill illegal aliens, but that’s just not true,” Gilchrist told United Press International in a telephone interview from Aliso Viejo, Calif. “We will not be carrying rifles, although Arizona law allows people to carry arms if they want to—so some people who join us may choose to carry them.”
Gilchrist said that most importantly, the volunteers will be exercising their right to speak freely under the First Amendment about the crisis at the border and supporting local law enforcement officials with observing and reporting illegal activity.
“It’s no different from seeing a burglar in your neighbor’s house and calling the sheriff,” Gilchrist said.
Despite Gilchrist’s insistence that the Minuteman Project is not a violent operation, Derbez in his Monday statement characterized the group as “hunters” of Mexican citizens. And Derbez told reporters the issue of the militia groups will be handled directly with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she meets March 10 with Derbez in Mexico City.