Should Volunteer Civilian Groups Such as the Minutemen Patrol the Borders?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

A Minuteman surveys the border

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of the U.S. Congress, stated in its Apr. 7, 2006 report titled "Civilian Patrols Along the Border: Legal and Policy Issues":

"The phenomenon of civilians taking it upon themselves to patrol the border has existed in a wide variety of forms for at least a hundred and fifty years. Some are informal or ad hoc groupings of citizens, while others are highly organized and well funded groups that actively recruit members. Over the past fifteen years civilian border patrol organizations appear to have proliferated along the U.S.-Mexico border. Though the reasons for their formation vary, many of the groups were organized in response to an apparent lack of federal resources at the border and to the significant increases in illegal entries."

Apr. 7, 2006 - Congressional Research Service (CRS) 
"Civilian Patrols Along the Border: Legal and Policy Issues" (132 KB)  

PRO (yes)

Tom Tancredo, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (R-CO), stated in an undated public forum (accessed on Oct. 8, 2007):

"I was on the border when the Minutemen organization was forming and was going to go out... and be on the line. And I remember telling them something that day, that I still believe is true to this day, that I believe every single one of them were American heroes.

I know that the President was calling them vigilantes. But the reality is that of course these people are folks who had just had enough."

Oct. 8, 2007 - Thomas G. Tancredo 

U.S. Border Patrol Local 2544 union, according to an Apr. 18, 2005 WorldNet Daily online article titled "Border Patrol Union Supports Minutemen," stated:

"We want to make it clear – because we've had a lot of questions about this – we have not had one single complaint from a rank-and-file agent in this sector about the Minutemen...

Every report we've received indicates these people are very supportive of the rank-and-file agents; they're courteous. Many of them are retired firefighters, cops, and other professionals, and they're not causing us any problems whatsoever...

While President Bush entices millions of illegal aliens to keep coming with his amnesty proposals and his demoralizing statements that he doesn't want Border Patrol agents chasing 'good-hearted people just coming here to take jobs Americans won't do,' the Minutemen are trying to get our laws enforced."

Apr. 18, 2005 - US Border Patrol Local 2544 

Robert C. Bonner, JD, former Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, stated in a July 21, 2005 New York Times article titled "Border Patrol Considering Use of Volunteers, Official Says,":

"[T]here is the possibility in local border communities, and maybe even beyond, of having citizens that would be willing to volunteer to help the Border Patrol...

We value having eyes and ears of citizens, and I think that would be one of the things we are looking at is how you better organize, let's say, a citizen effort"

July 21, 2005 - Robert C. Bonner, JD 

Chris Simcox, founder and President of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, formerly the Civil Homeland Defense (CHD), stated in an undated document (accessed Oct. 11, 2007):

"CHD received information yesterday morning (Tuesday) that most field Border Patrol agents were being called in to increase security at the port of entry stations...

Since our government officials have basically notified the world that the border fence is not being patrolled, it is now more important than ever for citizens to rise to the occasion and fill a void in National security.

CHD volunteers will now patrol the border with over 100 fully armed Citizens who consider themselves members of the unorganized state militia; we have the legal right and moral obligation as per our Arizona State Constitution and Federal Constitution and our respect for American citizens.

Our intent is to send a strong message to the world that we will stand defiant to invaders and protect the borders of our country."

Oct. 11, 2007 - Chris Simcox 

Rasmussen Reports, a public opinion polling firm, conducted a survey of 1,000 adults from Sep. 20-21, 2005 and found the following results (with a +/- 4.5% margin of error):

Should the federal government encourage volunteers to help patrol the entire Mexican border?
48% Yes
33% No

Would citizen patrols reduce illegal immigration?
52% Yes
25% No

"Minutemen" who patrolled Mexican border:
54% Favorable
22% Unfavorable

Sep. 20-21, 2005 - Rasmussen Reports 

CON (no)

George W. Bush, MBA, President of the U.S., answered Vicente Fox, President of Mexico, in a Mar. 23, 2005 exchange at Baylor University:

"PRESIDENT FOX: (As translated) And, President Bush, I wanted to ask you about your opinion about those people who are hunting migrant people along the border.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm against vigilantes in the United States of America. I'm for enforcing law in a rational way. That's why you got a Border Patrol, and they ought to be in charge of enforcing the border."

Mar. 23, 2005 - George W. Bush, MBA 

Robert C. Bonner, JD, former Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was quoted in a July 21, 2005 New York Times article titled "Border Patrol Considering Use of Volunteers, Official Says" as saying the following in Feb. 2005:

The Government of Mexico has repeatedly declared its condemnation of vigilante acts made by citizens of the U.S...

On July 21st [2005], the press printed comments made by the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Robert Bonner, regarding the possible inclusion of civil volunteers to the activities of the Border Patrol.

That same day, the Government of Mexico, through our Embassy in Washington, gave a Diplomatic Note to the U.S. Department of State in which we declared that the possibility of having volunteers cooperating with the authorities of the Department of Homeland Security in subjects of immigration and border would severely affect our capacity for future development of cooperation on these subjects."

[Editor's note: The above correspondence is mentioned in a Feb. 16, 2006 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on interaction between Mexico and the United States on immigration issues from 2001-2006: Mexico-United States Dialogue on Migration and Border Issues, 2001-2006 (PDF)]

July 21, 2005 - Robert C. Bonner, JD 

Jennifer Allen, Director of the Border Action Network, stated in an Apr. 5, 2005 discussion on Democracy Now! titled "Vigilantes or Civilian Border Patrol? A Debate on the Minuteman Project":

"The Border Patrol does this every day, and they are qualified and very well trained to handle the situation... Ordinary Americans are not. So there's a danger that not just illegal migrants might get hurt, but that American citizens might get hurt in this situation."

Apr. 5, 2005 - Jennifer Allen 

The Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE), the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in an Aug. 2, 2005 report titled "Actions of the Government of Mexico Relative to Activities of Vigilantism," stated:

"[W]hat we don't need is civilians taking arms up and out patrolling the desert for immigrants themselves. No additional amount of men with guns is ever going to solve the problems of failing immigration and border policy. What we need to see is comprehensive immigration reform, not vigilantes."

Aug. 2, 2005 - Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE) (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico) 

Lucas Guttentag, JD, National Director of the Immigrants' Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation, stated in an Apr. 29, 2005 press release titled "ACLU Dismayed at Governor Schwarzenegger's Endorsement of Armed Vigilantes on California's Border":

"The Immigrants' Rights Project of the national American Civil Liberties Union is dismayed at the statements of Governor Schwarzenegger praising the activities of the 'Minuteman' vigilantes at the Arizona border.

Encouraging private individuals to enforce federal immigration laws is an invitation to lawlessness and increases the danger of abuse and violence. During the Minutemen's actions in Arizona, the Immigrants' Rights Project participated in the legal observer program to monitor the vigilante actions. We saw firsthand that the presence of armed vigilantes at border towns and communities creates a climate of intimidation and fear among residents of border communities. As a result of the Minutemen's presence, residents were afraid to send their children to school, to go shopping, and to engage in normal business activity."

Apr. 29, 2005 - Lucas Guttentag, JD