Organizer of Minutemen leaving border early, but volunteers to remain
ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN
The Associated Press
The chief organizer of civilian volunteers who are spending the month watching for illegal immigrants and smugglers along the Mexican border is pulling out of the Minuteman Project early, a project official said Monday.
Jim Gilchrist, a retired accountant from California, will leave Arizona on Wednesday and plans to appear before the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus next week in Washington. He will be taking the official Minuteman Project name and a group of volunteers.
"He is claiming victory . . . so he felt it would be appropriate to wrap up his participation this week and prepare to go to Washington," said Chris Simcox, the project's field operations director.
Simcox, who also plans to be in Washington next week, said Gilchrist isn't severing his ties to the project or with other organizers.
Despite Gilchrist's departure and Simcox's temporary absence, patrols will continue as planned through April 30 - albeit under the name of his organization, Civil Homeland Defense - Simcox said.
The volunteers, some armed, arrived April 1 and began spreading out a few days later along a 23-mile stretch of desert between the border communities of Naco and Douglas. They alert authorities when they see someone cross the border illegally, but are not allowed to detain anyone.
Law enforcement officials have said they fear the project will lead to vigilante violence, an accidental confrontation between armed volunteers and authorities, or a dangerous encounter with the violent smugglers who use the area.
The volunteers claim their reports have led the Border Patrol to more than 260 illegal immigrants. The Border Patrol has acknowledged receiving more than 300 calls from Naco and Douglas, resulting in hundreds of apprehensions, but the agency will not say whether any calls came from project volunteers.