By David Cahn /

This April the Minuteman Project is holding their second “Secure Our Borders” Campaign across the nation. For the entire month of April, armed Minutemen will be “patrolling” the Mexican and Canadian borders while other volunteers will be protesting, monitoring and harassing day-labor sites in communities across the United States. In fact, here in Whatcom County we have our very own group of Minutemen who will stand vigilant on our border against the ever-present threat of Canada. While some might be eager to dismiss these as harmless and foolish actions, they are having a much broader impact that needs to be examined. They are only the most public face of a growing anti-immigrant movement in our nation that continues to grow in size, anger and power. Minuteman co-founder Chris Simcox promises that their growing organization will hold these campaigns every six months until the federal government literally puts our military on our borders. At a rally this past June he declared “If we don’t see the National Guard and the U.S. military on the border by October, we’re going to patrol the border with 20,000 citizens. That will be a warning. In six months, if we don’t see the military on the border, you might be faced with an army of 100,000 citizens.”

Still haven’t heard of the Minutemen? They are a national anti-immigrant organization that has humble beginnings in 2002 as the Civil Homeland Defense Corp militia, conducting armed patrols and illegally detaining immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. Believing that the United States is victim to an illegal invasion of immigration, Simcox and co-founder Jim Gilchrist proclaimed that it was their patriotic responsibility to stop it themselves. They have since grown across the nation and don’t intend on slowing down anytime soon.

While I have to acknowledge the sincerity and persistence of their actions, I cannot give them any credit for originality. It turns out that the original border watch program was launched October 16, 1977 at the San Ysidro, CA Port of Entry by the Ku Klux Klan. While Grand Dragon Tom Metzger and Imperial Wizard David Duke saw their Klan Border Watch as an important part of “the battle to halt the flow of illegal aliens streaming across the border from Mexico,” it was much more importantly a way to “arouse public opinion to such a degree that they [the Federal Government] would be forced to better equip the beleaguered U.S. Border Patrol.” The Klan was hoping to relive their “glory” days of the 1920s when its nearly four million members backed the passage of the National Origins Act of 1924. This bill put in place an immigration system that virtually banned Asians and put quotas on immigrants from Eastern and Southern European Countries until the mid-60s. While Metzger and Duke’s hopes petered out, they did succeed in generating an enormous amount of publicity for their actions.

My how things come full circle. The Klan lobbied for the National Origins Act and the Minutemen lobby for legislation like House Resolution 4437 aka the Sensenbrenner Bill. Among other things, this inhumane and ineffective piece of legislation would make felons out of undocumented immigrants and criminals out of anybody who assists an undocumented immigrant, knowingly or unknowingly. If that wasn’t enough there are also provisions for building a 700 mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, end the lottery system that provides 50,000 people a year a chance to immigrate legally, eliminate the right to due process of law for these same folks and make local police departments enforce federal immigration law. H.R. 4437 already passed the House of Representatives (with our own Rep. Rick Larsen voting for it) this past December and is being worked out in the Senate as we speak.

Tens of thousands of people across the nation recognize this bill for the injustice it is and have been protesting it the past couple of weeks. Over half a million people in Los Angeles alone took to the streets last Saturday. This Wednesday, April 5, your fellow Western students will be holding a walkout as well, meeting in Red Square at 12:00 pm. There will be a rally with high school students and community leaders attending and then we will be going to deliver a letter to Rick Larsen’s office downtown.

Today, as the debate over immigration heats up in D.C., the Minutemen continue their patrols, protests and lobbying of legislators. They say that illegal immigrants are a danger to “our” society. Well I’ve yet to hear of any “illegal alien” moving our jobs overseas, spending billions of our tax dollars on a failing and mismanaged war in Iraq or passing disastrous “free-trade” legislation. How convenient for politicians and corporate executives on both sides of the aisle that groups like the Minutemen continue to stir-up thinly veiled racism and distract us from the real issues at hand. Might we begin to see some humanity in those we deem “illegal aliens,” we can recognize they are just ordinary people suffering from the same social and economic policies that have ravaged our communities for the past 20 years.

The choice is ours; we can remain divided with a politics of hate and scapegoating or come together and fight for a better country for us all, with a politics of respect, community and solidarity. Immigrant-bashing will solve none of our nation’s problems.