Retired Kansas policeman Ed Hayes lives a quiet life with his wife and pet poodles in a spacious suburban home near Kansas City, far from the main front line over illegal immigration along the U.S. border with Mexico.
He has joined many individuals, who, with state and municipal leaders, have given up waiting for federal action and are working to control illegal immigration themselves.
The issue has become a priority not only for activists like Hayes but also for state and local leaders around the United States who say illegal immigration limits job opportunities for Americans and severely strains community resources.
Hayes is a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), a national organization that is one of several groups that have formed, including one in Oklahoma called Outraged Patriots.
His efforts are generally restricted to joining with other like-minded Midwesterners in picketing construction sites employing undocumented workers or handing out pamphlets at carnivals and gun shows.
The Minuteman group has a controversial reputation. Critics see it as a sometimes violent, racist organization of would-be vigilantes and some classify it as a hate group. But supporters say the group is non-violent and only aims to enforce the law.
Minuteman membership has been growing nationally recently, with hundreds of new members added in the last three months, according to Garza.
A new chapter is starting in Colorado with a new-member meeting November 17, and the group now has some form of representation in nearly every state with a total of more than 9,000 members, Garza said.
Kansas City parks and recreation board member Frances Semler said she joined the MCDC last year because she was so frustrated with a lack of action by Congress and an increasing strain on community resources. Her membership has cost the city convention business and some have called for her dismissal.
Forty-three states enacted 182 immigration-related laws this year, “an unprecedented level of activity,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.