The Minuteman's 15 Minutes of Fame (Minute 14.5)

At the Arizona border, Infiltrator checks in with Americans who help the government look for illegal aliens

"If there was any violation of the law, we would observe it," the head frumpy one says.

"Have there been any violations?"

[Pause] "No ... we say a boring day is a good day."

I ask how they feel about the situation on the border. The one with the huge cold sore sharply cuts in: "We have a policy not to talk about politics, because we are here to observe!"

"We're here for the Minutemen!" adds her frumpy friend.

Strange. An organization focused intensely on the politics of human rights has a policy about not talking about politics?! At least the Minutemen shared deer sausage with us.

The head frumpy girl gets curt now, insisting, "Guys, you're going to have to talk to Ray [the head of the ACLU border operation] about that."

Before leaving, I ask what they do when not legally observing the border.

"Uh ... well ... having a life ... doing normal things ...."

I press further.

The head frumpy one finally confesses to being unemployed, noting, however, that she's taking a Spanish class. I mention, before departing, what we've been told about the rattlesnakes, gesturing to the girls' tennis shoes.

"They can bite through those you know."

Still No Illegal Aliens

The scrutiny of the press turns on me when I ask a lady wearing a homemade macramé bonnet the location of the Minuteman daily briefing. "There's a flier being distributed through Mexico by the Mexican government that says 'Danger: Vigilantes,'" the bonneted lady says, sarcastically waving her hands around. "Big, scary people here!" Then she says, "While here, I've taken pictures of 10 types of birds, 25 types of plants. I have a songbird tape. Yeah, you should be scared of me!"

I am!

Then I'm just awe-struck when the bonneted woman digresses into a rant that approaches sheer insanity: "We really need to work on the diversity out here, because we really haven't had the GLBT [i.e., gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender] community well-represented. Neither has the African-Americans."

Yes, she's actually surprised the gay community hasn't come out in droves to support the Minuteman Project.

"There were three black gentlemen from Tennessee who stayed for a week," clarifies a man from Waco who's dressed as a cowboy. "No Hispanics volunteered. Maybe they didn't want to seem like race traitors." To explain what he means, he animatedly shares his philosophy on race and immigration: "You always hear 'African-American' or 'Mexican-American.' How about loving America first? 'American-American.' 'American-Mexican.' Why is that?"

I shrug my shoulders.

Driving down the dusty border road, I find it fun to wave at the Minutemen, who always joyfully wave back. We park next to a van with two cardboard, hand-scrawled signs in the window reading "Badges. We don't need no stinking badges! WE HAVE THE CONSTITUTION" and "THEY IMPEACHED Nixon & Clinton FOR LESS."

"A boring day is a good day," remarks Ken, oddly echoing what a frumpy ACLU girl said. A truly likable guy with a wry sense of humor, Ken is an ex-cop from Arkansas who, with his long white hair and thick mustache, looks like an old hippie. Recently, he was responsible for stopping 40 pounds of not-pot from coming across the border by reporting movement at an abandoned ranch nicknamed the Naco Hilton. Smoking a pipe, he points to the gun on his belt. "There's no rounds in it. This helped us get this press coverage. That's the reason why we're here, not to use them," he says. "'Oh, men with guns!' That's much better than, 'Oh, men with walkie-talkies -- they might throw them!'"

Ken claims the Minutemen's presence put the "bored" back in "Border Patrol."

"When the Border Patrol first heard we were coming, they said, 'That's great; all we need is a bunch of hillbillies out there, drinking, waving guns,'" he remarks with self-deprecating humor. "But after the third day they knew that was not what it was.

"They thought we'd come out, get all the press, and melt away by the end of the week. They had a pool going, guessing when the last Minuteman would be out there. And almost nobody was guessing past two weeks.

"Because we stuck it out, night after night, day after day, shift after shift, [the Border Patrol] came to have a lot of respect for us."

As we're walking toward the gate of the Naco Hilton, another Minuteman -- one you might describe as an asshole -- drives up, gets mad at us for leaving tracks by the gate, videotapes the license plate on our vehicle, then drives away.

"Do you want to see some garbage left by people who have come by?" asks a male nurse from Utah excitedly; he'd come out to the border alone, despite his wife's disapproval.

"Sure!" I answer enthusiastically. (Maybe there will be a copy of the Quran?!)

We go to the spot. There's a plastic bag weighted down by a rock and one tiny shoe. We stare at it for several seconds. It's a plastic bag and tiny shoe, all right.

The Utah nurse talks about the only major incident so far. "There was this guy. He called himself 'The Jokester.' He made a T-shirt that said 'I Caught an Illegal Alien at the Border & All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.' The Jokester then found an illegal alien, made him put on the T-shirt, and took photos," the nurse says.

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