Vigilante posers

Arizona's Minuteman Project rustles up some more publicity -- this time with a special kind of photo shoot for detainees.

Published April 8, 2005 10:41PM (EDT)

The now-infamous Minuteman Project along the Arizona border so far hasn't proved to be the vehicle for vigilante violence that U.S. and Mexican civil rights groups feared it might be. The project's leaders have shown their acumen for stirring up publicity -- and some of its members are keeping it rolling, hewing to the idea that there's no such thing as the bad variety. According to the Associated Press, a 26-year-old Mexican citizen says members of the citizen militia detained him against his will and forced him to pose for pictures with a T-shirt that read: "Bryan Barton caught an illegal alien and all I got was this T-shirt." (A spokesman for Minuteman denied the incident, saying, "All they did was provide water and wait for the Border Patrol. What's the big deal?")

Local law enforcement, which is reviewing a videotape that Minuteman volunteer Bryan Barton provided to deputies, has had about enough of the volunteers' shenanigans. Cochise County, Ariz. Sheriff Larry Dever warned, "We do not have the time nor the patience for anyone attempting to turn this situation into a three ring circus."

And a circus is just what the project continues to be: Far from actually helping the Border Patrol prevent illegal immigration from Mexico, Minuteman volunteers and the scores of reporters who've been following them have repeatedly caused false alarms by tripping border sensors, and their footprints have made it difficult for legitimate patrollers to track any actual illegal immigrants. (The Border Patrol has acknowledged a drop in the rate of illegal immigration attempts they've seen since the Minuteman deployment on April 1, but has attributed the drop to Mexico's increased border-security efforts, and not the presence of the Minuteman militia.)

While the project certainly has drawn attention to security issues at the U.S.-Mexico border, it seems unlikely that the volunteers' efforts will encourage the Bush administration to support the total border lockdown they're hoping for. If anything, the spectacle of the Minuteman Project is making President Bush's more permissive guest-worker initiative look like a more realistic approach to immigration policy.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

MORE FROM Page Rockwell

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Immigration War Room