By Alan Scherstuhl
By Chris Packham
By Robrt L. Pela
By Claire Lawton
By New Times Staff
By Claire Lawton
By Robrt L. Pela
By Robrt L. Pela
Chris Simcox is not a racist. And he's not a vigilante. He's just a nice guy from Tombstone who's tired of all those nasty Mexicans sneaking over the border looking for better lives here in our sovereign nation. By forming The Minuteman Project, a patrol group bent on "sealing the Mexican-American border," Simcox is merely responding to what everyone from Governor Janet Napolitano to President George W. Bush has been calling for but not providing: a secure border between the U.S. and Mexico.
Simcox and his nearly 1,000 volunteers are spending the month of April "aiding" Border Patrol officials by alerting them to naughty border crossers. Although Simcox says he discourages Minuteman members from any violence against border crossers, he has no problem with his volunteers being armed, and he performs background checks on potential members by Googling them. But, hey, these people are doing someone else's dirty work -- who cares where they come from? As long as the really cool tee shirt fits, and no sneaky Mexicans make it over the border, everything's cool.
New Times: It's very nice of you to pick up the slack where our government has failed us. To stop illegal aliens from trespassing on our American soil is quite an undertaking.
Chris Simcox: Yes. The Minutemen are a combination political protest and neighborhood watch group. We're no different than any other watch group except in this case we're talking about the international border. We're making a political statement, because we're frustrated with President Bush and his version of homeland security.
NT: Good thing we have the Minutemen.
Simcox: Well, I certainly love my country. And I was basically forced into action after September 11. I took a trip to a beautiful national park a week later and I was aghast at the way our borders were wide open. I couldn't walk a camping trail without bumping into large groups of illegal aliens, and every couple minutes there'd be another vehicle full of drugs driving through this beautiful park. I decided that since I was too old to join the military border patrol, I would take on this hypocritical situation and educate Americans my own way.
NT: How are your people trained?
Simcox: We teach them to read a map, but all they really need to know is how to park their cars, set up a lawn chair, and watch the border with binoculars. They need to know how to dial the Border Patrol if they witness anyone crossing illegally. And they should know to wear a hat and some sunscreen and to keep hydrated. There's nothing to it beyond sitting still and reporting illegal activity.
NT: But certainly you perform background checks on these people.
Simcox: Yeah, they submit a résumé of their life experiences, and then we do a search using the Internet, to make sure they have no felonies or criminal activity.
NT: You Google them?
Simcox: Just to confirm they're who they say they are, then we question them in person to see if they read the information on our Web site. And we do make them sign a waiver that makes us free from liability and that asks them to abide by the law while they're on patrol.
NT: What a relief. So, has the Border Patrol increased its efforts since you guys arrived?
Simcox: No, not really. Oh, at first, when the media was watching, there were a greater number of Border Patrol officials. They were just showing off for reporters. Now it's pretty much business as usual. They're sitting out there right now, twiddling their thumbs.
NT: But you guys have it covered. So who needs the Border Patrol?
Simcox: Well, we have 1,500 registered volunteers. It was a little slow starting -- you know how Americans are, they want to sit back and make sure it was going to work before they got involved. But now the phones are ringing off the hook.
NT: And how many aliens have you prevented from infiltrating our country?
Simcox: Well, remember that our goal is zero. What we're doing is modeling how we think homeland security should work. Our goal is to create a presence that is an obvious deterrent [to illegal border crossing]. That's how homeland security should work. It was never our goal to catch anyone. Although we have assisted [Border Patrol agents] in apprehending 117 people.
NT: Wow. All that hard work, and all people want to do is badmouth you guys. How come everyone seems to think you're a bunch of racists?
Simcox: You tell me. I have no idea.
NT: Um, because you don't want brown-skinned people to come into our country?
Simcox: Wait. We don't want them to come in illegally. Since when did Americans making a political statement and exposing government hypocrisy become a racial issue? Most of the people who are calling us racists are people who are aiding and abetting people coming into this country illegally. Like Jennifer Allen with Border Action Network, who goes to Mexico and teaches people to break into our country. "God says there are no borders," is her thing.
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