The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, which posted hundreds of civilian volunteers along the U.S.-Mexico border over the past five years, has disbanded, citing what it called "rising aggression" in the country and decisions by lawmakers in Washington who have "pushed amnesty down our throats."
"The mental attitude of many Americans is turning meaner … and we are concerned that this could cause problems," MCDC President Carmen Mercer told The Washington Times on Monday. "You see aggression surfacing even at the tea party marches. We just did not want to deal with the liability anymore.
"We have to protect the ranchers as well as the volunteers," Ms. Mercer said, noting the killing on Saturday of Robert Krentz, a prominent Douglas, Ariz., rancher who was shot along with his dog on his ranch by a suspected illegal immigrant who fled into Mexico and remains a fugitive.
Born in April 2005, the MCDC — originally known as the Minuteman Project — called for the U.S. military to be assigned to protect the southwestern border from terrorists, illegal immigrants and drug smugglers; sought increased manpower for the U.S. Border Patrol; and opposed the granting of amnesty to the millions of illegals who already have entered the country.
The MCDC vowed to fight a proposal by President Obama to try to get a bipartisan immigration bill passed this year that would establish a path to legal status for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.
At one point, the organization had a roster of about 12,000 members. In May 2005, then-U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Robert C. Bonner praised the Minuteman movement, saying it was aiding the effort to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the country by reducing the flow of illegal immigrants and disrupting smuggling operations.
Mr. Bonner said the volunteers brought significant press attention to the issue of illegal immigration and proposed that the government work with the Minutemen in patrolling the border.
Within days, the Department of Homeland Security rejected the proposal outright, saying it wasn't going to happen.
The MCDC announcement that it was dissolving came as a surprise to many in the movement, particularly in light of pronouncements by Ms. Mercer earlier this month that the organization was looking for more volunteers this year to show up on the border "locked and loaded."
"This muster will be completely different. … We return to the border locked, loaded and ready to stop each and every individual we encounter along the frontier that is now more dangerous than the frontier of Afghanistan," she said in a March 16 posting on the MCDC Web site. "This operation will not be for the faint of heart."
In that message, Ms. Mercer said MCDC volunteers would "forcefully engage, detain and defend our lives and country from the criminals who trample over our culture and laws" and would be encouraged to carry rifles — a practice that previously had been banned.
"From the surveillance videos we have gathered in the field over the past six months, it is more than evident the violators of our borders seem to have been given carte blanche permission to willfully violate our public safety," the message said.
She also said that the MCDC volunteers would be returning to the border to tell Mr. Obama that his immigration policy is wrong and to send a message to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that she is "an unqualified buffoon who risks the lives of American citizens every day she is the head of DHS."
"This time we will not be tempered by political correctness; every single individual we encounter will be apprehended by Border Patrol with our help — even those who dare enter our country armed will be stopped and challenged," she said. "Political correctness is a fad of the past. This is for the survival of this great Republic."
On Monday, Ms. Mercer acknowledged that the response she had received to the March 16 Web site call prompted the decision to dissolve the MCDC. She said many people who had not answered e-mails for years wanted to come on board because of the "locked and loaded" edict.
Even though she said the organization's 2010 standard operating procedures were legal, she was concerned that "one bad apple" could destroy everything the organization has worked to achieve along the border over the past several years. Since its founding in April 2005, there has not been an incident along the border involving the MCDC volunteers and illegal immigrants.
Although the responses were overwhelmingly positive, she said, it was obvious that "many had decided to return to the border who had tired of the sometimes futile watch-and-observe methods. It showed me that people are not willing to be silenced anymore; it also showed me that people will be less likely to follow the rules of engagement in a desperate attempt to stop the criminals who violate our borders every day.
"That is not what we want, and we cannot take the responsibility for this," she said.
Federal border enforcement officials did not comment specifically about the disbanding of MCDC but released a statement suggesting that they will not be unhappy to see the group go.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection "does not endorse or support any private group or organization from taking matters into their own hands, as it could have disastrous personal and public safety consequences," CBP spokesman Steven Cribby said. "CBP appreciates the efforts of concerned citizens as they act as our eyes and ears, but it is important that they leave the enforcement to us."
Ms. Mercer, a Tombstone, Ariz., restaurant owner, said that although MCDC was dissolving, the organization's chapters and various offshoot groups would continue to organize border watches. She blamed Republican lawmakers such as Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina for offering to work with Mr. Obama on immigration policy and weakening border controls.
Messages left Monday seeking comment from the offices of Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham were not returned.
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