The Minutemen - Enforcers of Death on the Border & Promoters of Racist Hatred
The U.S. government is enforcing, and trying to pass even worse laws that force immigrants even deeper into the shadows by criminalizing undocumented people and denying them basic services.
Alongside this increasing, inhumane repression, the powers-that-be are promoting an anti-immigrant, nativist, fascist movement throughout the U.S. This vigilante movement is persecuting and hunting down immigrants along the border region, and has also been organizing forces in major cities like Los Angeles and Chicago and counties throughout Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Among this fascist nativist movement, the Minutemen have emerged as a prominent vigilante group that has been gaining notoriety and legitimacy as expert guests on reactionary news channels like Fox and other mainstream media outlets like CNN.
Enrique Morones, whose group the Border Angels puts water through the desert for migrants, has been actively speaking out against the Minutemen and other vigilantes like Ranch Rescue, American Patrol, the Barnett Brothers, among others. Morones says that although the Minutemen are not an organization of thousands, as they often claim, the Minutemen and the increased militarization of the border are responsible for an increase in migrant deaths.
In a phone interview with Revolution, Morones said, “Before Operation Gatekeeper, which was implemented in 1994, there was one estimated death along the border every month. Since then, an estimated 4,000 people have died trying to cross the border.” He told Revolution that 4,000 bodies have been accounted for, but that the realistic number might be considerably higher, “possibly as much as 10,000 deaths.”
It is difficult to measure the exact numbers because while some skeletons and scattered bones are found in the desert, many of the deceased bodies are never found. According to Morones, "This increased militarization and vigilantes like the Minutemen have forced migrants to more extreme and remote parts of the desert. Since last year, there have been over 464 migrant deaths--a number higher than the previous year.”
This April the Minutemen launched a new phase of the border patrols. And in addition to stepping up their harassment of immigrants, they have been calling conferences, town hall meetings, and protests at lumber yards where undocumented immigrants sell their labor. Jim Gilchrist (one of the co-founders of the Minutemen) even ran for Congress under the American Independent Party, a party founded by a former Alabama governor who once stood on the steps of the University of Alabama to prevent a young Black woman from entering the university and declared, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”
Chris Simcox, one of the co-founders of the Minutemen, plans to send Bush an ultimatum by the end of May demanding Bush send military reserves to the Arizona border or else the Minutemen will begin building their own fences on the property of landowners across the Arizona/Mexico border. According to Simcox, contractors have already offered to help design the fences and provide the equipment to begin building them. “We're going to show the federal government how easy it is to build these security fences, how inexpensively they can be built when built by private people and free enterprise," Simcox said.
The Minutemen are supported by government officials for starting these vigilante patrols of armed civilians who actively hunt human beings in order to, according to their website, “defend” the "Homeland" from the "invasion of illegal aliens" along the U.S./Mexico border. The governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, commended the Minutemen on a right-wing radio station in L.A., KFI AM, "I think they've done a terrific job... They've cut down the crossing of illegal immigrants a huge percentage. So it just shows that it works when you go and make an effort and when you work hard. It's a doable thing."
When the Minutemen were organizing to start patrolling along the Texas/Mexico border, the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, refused to sign a resolution banning the Minutemen from patrolling in the state of Texas and said no one has the right to prevent "law-abiding citizens from traveling to, from or within this state."
Tom Tancredo, a fascist Congressman in Colorado who fought to include an article in the Sensenbrenner bill denying automatic citizenship to children born in the U.S. from undocumented parents (which was later rejected), has commended and actively supported the Minutemen. In 2005, he invited Jim Gilchrist, another co-founder of the Minutemen, to speak before the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus in D.C. During a radio interview last year, Tancredo said that the U.S. should “take out” Mecca and other Islamic holy sites if the U.S. is hit by a Muslim terrorist attack. When a local Denver newspaper ran an article about a high school valedictorian whose family is undocumented, Tancredo sought to find the family and have them deported.
Bush has referred to the Minutemen as "vigilantes." But putting a little public distance, at this point, between himself and the Minutemen is different than opposing them. Even though Bush called the Minutemen "vigilantes," he has never spoken against any of the top politicians who have cheered on the vigilantes and he has not done a single thing to stop them. And his Homeland Security czar just unleashed migra terror in the form of raids that rounded up a thousand immigrant workers. (For an analysis of why the capitalists -- who Bush represents -- need and fear immigrants, see “Welcome the Immigrants -- Tear Down that Wall!” in Revolution #43 or at revcom.us).
Many of these vigilante forces, including the Minutemen, have tried to cover up, deny, and even publicly denounce white supremacists—but neo-nazis have been active within these movements and are actively recruiting members into their organizations.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that members of the National Alliance (a neo-nazi group) participated in the Minutemen patrols and distributed nazi propaganda among some Minutemen and to people in the border region. A member of the National Alliance who participated in a patrol in Arizona said, "We understand why Gilchrist and [Minutemen co-organizer Chris] Simcox have to talk all this P.C. [politically correct] crap. It's all about playing to the media. That's fine. While we're here, it's their game and we'll play by their rules. Once Minuteman's over, though, we might just have to come back and do our own thing."
While this state-sponsored nativism bases itself on backward sections of white middle class people and is also trying to mobilize white workers—it is also trying to mobilize Black and Chicano workers (and even some documented immigrants) against undocumented immigrants.
None of the different options for immigration reform being debated in Congress are any good for the people. While some call for building a 700-mile fence along the U.S./Mexico border and others call for mandating the Homeland Security Department to develop national strategies for border security that include “aerial surveillance technologies” to “enhance border security”—this type of militarization along with armed vigilante groups like the Minutemen are leading to an increase in deaths along the border and a repressive atmosphere in this country that is criminalizing immigrants and people who assist them and provide this section of super-exploited people with social services. The building of detention centers and growing vigilante movements persecuting an entire section of people in this society are very reminiscent of Nazi Germany. This must not be tolerated.
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