updated 1/12/2008 5:48:30 PM ET 2008-01-12T22:48:30

The Minutemen anti-illegal immigration group is going from picketing to trash-picking on a strip of Southern California freeway.

State transit officials granted the group's San Diego chapter an Adopt-A-Highway stretch of Interstate 5 that includes the Border Patrol's traffic checkpoint near San Clemente, about 70 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The designation makes the chapter responsible for keeping the 2-mile strip of freeway clean.

"We'll be out there in dorky-looking vests, hard hats and goggles, picking up trash," San Diego chapter founder Jeff Schwilk said Friday.

Like other volunteer groups in the program around the country, the Minutemen have one sign identifying them on each side of the freeway.

'Desperate to get attention'
Some critics of the Minutemen, whose activities include patrolling in search of illegal border crossers, said the designation ignores rules barring groups that advocate discrimination from participating in the Adopt-A-Highway program.

California Transportation Department spokesman Edward Cartagena said the Minutemen got the stretch of I-5 near the Border Patrol checkpoint purely by chance and that the group's application did not violate any rules.

Enrique Morones, president of the immigrant-rights group Border Angels, called the Minutemen's move a publicity ploy.

"They're desperate to get attention, even if it means sweeping the freeway," he said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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