Minutemen Go Back To Work

Minuteman Joe Zirretta of Irvine, Calif. looks for illegal immigrants in Pima County near Three Points, Ariz. on Saturday, April 1, 2006. Minuteman volunteers concerned about the continued flow of illegal immigrants across the border from Mexico gathered Saturday with lawn chairs, binoculars and cell phones for a new monthlong campaign aimed at raising public awareness of the issue. (AP Photo/Khampha Bouaphanh)
AP Photo
Minuteman volunteers concerned about the continued flow of illegal immigrants across the border from Mexico gathered Saturday with lawn chairs, binoculars and cell phones for a new monthlong campaign aimed at raising public awareness.

A year after their first watch-and-report operation along the border in southeastern Arizona, members of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps embarked on a much larger effort in this state's busy migrant-smuggling corridor.

"I'm concerned about what's not being done by the government, hasn't been done for ages, apparently," said J. Glenn Sorensen, a retired school administrator now living in Flagstaff.

Sorensen, who was not involved last year, said he thinks the organization has already accomplished part of its purpose, "to draw national attention to an insecure border. I don't think anybody wants to close the border, I certainly don't. Basically, I think they need to be secure."

Meanwhile, the Senate continues to debate an immigration bill that includes a guest worker program. The version that passed the Republican-controlled House late last year took a get-tough approach — calling for more fences along the border and tougher penalties for those who sneak across — and did not create the guest worker program that Mr. Bush wants.

Speaking on Face The Nation Sunday, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., was pressed about the usefulness of erecting a 700-mile fence similar to the one proposed by the House bill on immigration he sponsored.

Sensenbrenner, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee,

. The congressman said, "There will be a physical barrier built where it's appropriate. But in other places, there can be a virtual fence, which includes high tech electronic devices, drone planes and stuff like that."

Sensenbrenner then told Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer he thought the Mexican government was to blame for the U.S.'s leaky border. "If they had helped, we wouldn't need these types of barriers. But I think they're kind of on the other side," he said.

None of the Minutemen interviewed had any illusions about their campaign's effectiveness, since it targets a relatively short section of the border for just a month. However, it comes at a time when Congress is debating changes to federal immigration laws, which have drawn supporters of legitimizing illegal immigrants to demonstrations across the country.

"This is like sticking a finger in the dike," said Ken Raymond, a retired electrical engineer and airplane mechanic from Tucson.

Yet some immigrants were apprehended. Minutemen volunteers in New Mexico alerted the Border Patrol to a group of immigrants Saturday.

"We hadn't been on the line more than 30 minutes when we spotted our first group of seven," said Bob Wright, director of the state's Minuteman group.

At a rally of at least 200 mostly older men and women at a remote southern Arizona ranch Saturday afternoon, politicians and activists opposed to illegal immigration gave fiery speeches calling for more border control.

Don Goldwater, a Republican candidate for Arizona governor, said he had a message for President Bush.