By Kathleen Vanesian
By Amy Silverman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Jim Louvau
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Benjamin Leatherman
By New Times
By Becky Bartkowski
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.
NT: What does God know about borders?
Simcox: Well, we're a sovereign nation. That means we have borders and laws and we have ways for people to immigrate legally. I'm pro-immigration. But illegal immigration leads to human beings being treated as commodities, sold as cheap labor. It's embarrassing that our president would allow people to die in the desert, and to allow Americans to fall victim to the hardened criminals who cross our borders and prey on us. It's terrible.
NT: So you're not crazy about President Bush's suggestion of a guest worker program? One with amnesty provisions and eventual opportunity for citizenship?
Simcox: It's absurd. We already have that -- it's called green cards. And work visas. [The government] should find a way to match qualified workers with employers who will sponsor them, pay for their housing and insurance, and not leave that up to the American taxpayer. The way it is now, all [an illegal immigrant] has to do is walk into a hospital, and guess who pays for it? Me. You. And the president has turned his back on this reality.
NT: Have you thought about your next move? Maybe you could post yourself in the parking lots of Home Depot stores. They're bursting with probable illegal immigrants.
Simcox: It's already happening. Phase Two will be turning our efforts inward, to employers who are breaking the law by promoting undocumented workers. You'll see the Minutemen protesting at Home Depot, and Wal-Mart is next. Every employer who hires illegals will see our picket lines.
NT: Can the Arizona economy survive without illegal immigrant workers? Who will pick the lettuce?
Simcox: Wait. We're talking about an orderly queue into this country. We're not saying we don't want the workers to come. We need them, but let's make sure they're coming in legally.
NT: What if an illegal alien had a really good excuse for wanting to cross over the border -- like "I think I left the coffee maker on" or "I forgot my keys"?
Simcox: There is no good excuse. Our government just announced that Americans traveling to Canada and Mexico need passports to come back home to the U.S. Look at the hypocrisy. We've pleaded with the government to protect our backyard, and we're enraged. The Minutemen have come up with a way to put boots on the ground. We're not writing any more letters, or testifying before any more congressional hearings. We're forcing them to do their jobs, or we'll do it for them. That's the American way.
NT: I read that the only injury the Minutemen have sustained was by a guy who fell into a hole and dislocated his shoulder.
Simcox: Yes. I am so proud of these people working on this mission. They exhibit the strong character of American people. They perform magnificently.
NT: And they get to wear those cool Border Patrol tee shirts. Can I get one, or are they just for people who work the border?
Simcox: You can buy them, but not from us. Those are from another individual who wanted to support our mission by selling a souvenir.
NT: Do they come in colors other than camouflage?
Simcox: I do not know.
NT: Hmm. So, you guys are armed, right? I mean, in case one of those immigrants gets nasty.
Simcox: Let's just say there are people out there who are free to responsibly execute their Second Amendment rights.
NT: So can I call you vigilantes?
Simcox: Of course not. Look in the dictionary! A vigilante is someone who takes the law into his own hands. A vigilante is judge, jury and executioner, which doesn't come near what we're doing. We're only ensuring law enforcement. Our government and our president have told America that we're at the front of homeland security. Since September 11, they've spent millions of our tax dollars to promote the idea of homeland security. President Bush's words were, "Be vigilant and alert and report suspicious behavior."
NT: Carte blanche from our own president! But aren't you also doing this to gain media attention?
Simcox: You bet. I want to show people in Iowa and New Hampshire that our department of homeland security is the weakest link in national security. We must secure the homeland, as well as the rights of the immigrant by forming an orderly queue into this country. It's the media that's created fear and incited hysteria in the community. Telling people we're vigilantes. We have exposed the hypocrisy of the press.
NT: Well, we try to behave.
Simcox: No. The media is complicit in keeping borders open by labeling people and by printing biased stories in their papers. But Americans will turn their attentions to the media. They'll come to you and say, "Why did you feed us untrue stories about these good people?"
NT: I'd better get busy thinking of something to say in response to that.
Simcox: I would appreciate it if you would.