Concerns about who might be getting past the under-funded and under-staffed Border Patrol has compelled a new citizens’ brigade to “do the job our government won’t do” and protect us from the “tens of millions of invading illegal aliens who are devouring and plundering our nation.” Some American citizens have become so disillusioned by the Bush administration’s failure to seal the national borders from “homeland invaders” that they have elected to take on the task of monitoring the 2,000-mile stretch of porous Mexican-American borderland.
The basic underlying tenets of this movement are solid: American citizens deserve protection from foreign threats. The national borders should absolutely be secured. But as so often is the case, there is no good idea that a fully committed group of scared and generally stupid Americans can’t completely run into the ground.
Out of such fear and loathing of foreign invasion, the Minuteman Project was formed on April 1, 2005. This new generation of American patriots (wait… no April Fool’s joke?) consists of private citizens who began their grassroots homeland security measures by courageously plopping themselves into lawn chairs on the scorching Arizona-Sonora border—a stretch of desert where tumbleweed goes to die. Armed with binoculars, cell phones and leather jackets embroidered with flags and phrases like “American Badasses,” the Minutemen sit and wait for “illegals” to cross the desert so that they can bravely dial up Border Patrol and allow someone else to remove the alien threats from American soil.
This October, the Minutemen will proudly expand their people-sieving operations to the borderlands of California, New Mexico and Texas. The California Minuteman Corp (sic)—which may have trouble spelling, as evidenced by their website—hopes to have no trouble repelling our inevitable invasion by “al Qaeda forces” and “job-stealing Mexicans.”
Beyond the destruction of the physical and economic infrastructure of white America, these concerned civilian patriots contend that invading border-crossers threaten the very sociopolitical fabric of the homeland hearth. Their official website claims that unless illegal immigration is completely stopped and reversed: “Future generations will inherit a tangle of rancorous, unassimilated, squabbling cultures with no common bond to hold them together, and a certain guarantee of the death of this nation as a harmonious ‘melting pot.’ The result: political, economic and social mayhem. Historians will write about how a lax America let its unique and coveted form of government and society sink into a quagmire of mutual acrimony among the various sub-nations that will comprise the new self-destructing America.”
There, hidden beneath the guise of national protectionism and a thick veil of thesaurus-laden prose is a racism so unadulterated that it would make the late Strom Thurmond look like a lollipop-licking, tap-dancing liberal.
Now, let us just say that you, like the Minutemen, agree that a private body should be legally entitled to metaphorically and/or literally arm oneself to protect both blood and nation against an invading enemy. Well that’s just fine. This is America, and according to our national Constitution and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, you too can wage combat against an invading enemy threat. (I wish I was kidding about the Arnold thing, but he legitimately is a huge supporter of the Minuteman cause. Don’t let the delightful irony of that escape you).
But what we inevitably wind up with—besides a desert arsenal, a beach-load of lawn chairs and more confederate flags than you can shake a stick at—is a volatile vigilante system. Yes, they carry with them cell phones and self-professed good intentions, but they also carry with them rifles, mace and an antagonism that threatens to erupt into violence. Even the most altruistic intentions of the Minutemen are marred by the possible harm that they could inflict upon would-be border-crossers.
In no way am I condoning illegal immigration into the United States or any other country. Nor am I at all in favor of the Minuteman Project. President Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin all decry this vigilante movement—and with good reason. What the United States needs most is a comprehensive and thoughtful immigration reform that does not rely upon threats or intimidation as enforcement tactics.
So why take issue with a civilian patrol as a partial solution to curbing illegal immigration? Because it’s diplomatically ineffectual and ideologically dangerous. Despite the immense sacrifices the Minutemen have made by risking dehydration and being forced to Tivo months of Jerry Springer episodes, the United States is not the highlands of Peru and can afford to do more than rely upon an angry civilian militia to protect the American homeland. And ultimately, the fact remains that emigrating people fleeing poverty, oppression, and tyranny will continue to seek refuge in the Land of the Free.*
*Void where prohibited by law or otherwise restricted. Rules not valid in Ariz., Calif., N.M. or Texas. No (Gadsden) Purchase necessary.
Boston Cote is a Trinity senior. Her column runs every other Friday.
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