Will the real Minuteman please endorse?

Seal-the-border immigration activists squabble over a recent endorsement of Mike Huckabee.

By Michael Scherer

Published December 12, 2007 9:37PM (EST)

Of all the oddball endorsements of this presidential cycle--see Chuck Norris,, Larry Flynt--perhaps the oddest came over the transom yesterday. Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, an effort to get Americans with binoculars to sit on the border in Arizona, put his name behind the campaign of Mike Huckabee. " "Governor Huckabee actually wrote a plan that I can embrace," gushed Gilchrist in a press release, referring to Huckabees nine-point immigration strategy.

Then today, there comes another press release from the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. "Real Minutemen Do Not Endorse Huckabee," it blared. It continued, with a run-on sentence:

Jim Gilchrist here speaks only for Jim Gilchrist, he does not speak for the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, nor is he nationally representative of most patriots in the "Minuteman movement" – who under no circumstances could ignore the failed record nor endorse the duplicitous “plan” recently rolled out by candidate Mike Huckabee.

There are two things going on here. First, the so-called Minuteman movement is deeply fractured. A retired Marine and accountant, Gilchrist became a star in 2005, when he used the Internet and talk radio to mobilize hundreds of people for symbolic month of border watching. He accomplished this feat by joining forces with Chris Simcox, a former school teacher, who already had a band of people walking the border as volunteers. The two men never got along too well, a fact that was much in evidence during the initial Minuteman operation, which I covered. Then the relationship soured even further, and Gilchrist eventually went to war with the "Minuteman Project" board amid allegations of financial mismanagement. Simcox signed the Wednesday press release denouncing the Gilchrist endorsement.

The second, more substantive issue is that Huckabee has not been much of an immigration hardliner, at least until recently. His new nine-point policy, however, includes the remarkable, if somewhat baffling, plan to require illegal immigrants to "register" with the federal government in a 120 day window. If they register, they will be deported and asked to apply for citizenship. If they do not register and allow themselves to be deported, they will be "caught" and then barred from reentry for 10 years. This is a long way from Huckabee's role as an Arkansas governor who fought to give tuition benefits to the children of illegal immigrants.

Michael Scherer

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

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