As the U.S. and Mexican governments continued their condemnation of the Minuteman Project that will begin operating on the Arizona-Sonora border today, concerns over possible violence are growing among the area’s residents.
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico issued a statement Thursday saying the U.S. government “does not back” the vigilante group and that the only group responsible for watching the border is the Border Patrol.
However, the statement continued, the United States could not prohibit the Minuteman volunteers from organizing on the border, and the U.S. Border Patrol “appreciates efforts by local residents to report suspicious activities.”
Also on Friday, Miguel Escobar Valdez, Mexican Consul in Douglas, Arizona, said the Mexican military was bracing for possible violence on the border.
“The Mexican army is on alert,” Escobar said. “Also, law enforcement will be vigilant because the situation is very volatile. This is because, I have to say it, there are violent and radical elements on both sides of the border.”
The Minuteman Project is made up of a group of U.S. volunteers angry over the continued entry of undocumented migrants into the United States. They have announced they will watch hightraffic migration areas in the Sonoran desert starting in April, when many migrants try to cross due to the comparably mild weather. The group says it will simply report the movements of migrants to the border patrol, but some fear they will try to illegally detain them and that violence could result.
“These ranchers’ campaign has only brought us ruin,” said Cristina Loreto, owner of a small restaurant in Agua Prieto, Sonora. “Fear has driven away many people from this area because they are afraid of the racists. I am a witness to how these poor immigrants have suffered.”
However, members of the Minuteman Project say they aren’t racist, but simply want to enforce U.S. law.
“I have the right to defend the security of my family and my people and if people attack me and call me racist because of this, then they don’t understand what is going on here on the border,” said Henry Esparza, himself the grandson of Mexican immigrants from Chihuahua and a Minuteman volunteer.
“I have never shot anyone and would never shoot one of my people,” Esparza said. “I am the grandson of Chihuahuan immigrants and I consider myself Mexican. But I cannot accept that criminals and terrorists are coming into my country. I think that Al Qaeda could take advantage of the border to infiltrate the country.”
While there have been reports of Islamic terrorists using the U.S.-Mexico border to enter the United States, none have been confirmed.