Volunteers Patrol Arizona Border For Illeagal Immigrants
Scott Olson  /  Getty Images
Demonstrators protest outside a meeting of Minuteman Project volunteers on Friday in  Tombstone, Ariz. More than 1,000 volunteers in the Minuteman Project are expected to fan out across a 23-mile stretch of the Arizona desert to search for illegal aliens.
By Brock N. Meeks Chief Washington correspondent
updated 4/1/2005 7:33:09 PM ET 2005-04-02T00:33:09

It was here in 1881 that the Earp brothers and their ally Doc Holliday faced down the Clanton and McLaury brothers in their infamous 30-second gunfight at the OK Corral. Now 124 years later, this tiny historic town is set for another flashpoint confrontation. And when an unknown number of the participants are openly packing firearms, apprehension hangs in the air.

This modern-day showdown pits members of the Minuteman Project, a citizen-led volunteer group intent on stopping illegal immigration along the Arizona-Mexican border, against pro-immigrant civil rights activists and a group of Hispanic Arizona lawmakers intent on being in the thick of things and making noise. 

"So long as it's a daytime meeting — and there's no (Klan) hoods out there — I intend to get right in the middle of things," Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, told Capitol Media Services. "I intend to demonstrate by my actions that we will not be intimidated."

While no Klan members have signed on to help out the Minutemen, members of white supremacy groups have signaled their intention to join the border patrolling volunteers.

Media and the Minutemen
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano on Thursday was urging caution, acknowledging the First Amendment rights and the right to assemble, both of the Minutemen and those opposed to their presence.

"That's why you can't stop the Minutemen from coming even though, from a law enforcement perspective, it's worrisome to have untrained people, potentially armed, performing what should be a law enforcement function,” Napolitano said.

There’s a perfect storm of confrontation emerging here: Opposing and vocal groups playing out on a national stage thanks to a horde of media, domestic and international, that have converged on Tombstone.

Tombstone, a former silver mining boomtown, is now a blip on the map, carved out of the hardscrabble surrounding Arizona landscape that looks like the back lot of a science fiction movie in which the hero crash lands on some desolate and hostile planet.  The town’s streets are narrow and few. Huge satellite TV trucks have overrun Allen Street, where the original OK Corral still stands, to the point where the local sheriff has shut down the street to all vehicular traffic. And literally overnight the population of Tombstone, some 1,504 strong, will more than double with the influx of an expected 1,000-plus Minuteman volunteers, plus activists and media.

Uber-patriot’s Woodstock
Chris Simcox, the Minuteman director of field operations and owner of the local newspaper, the Tombstone Tumbleweed, calls what appears at first blush to be a kind of uber-patriot’s Woodstock — “the nation’s largest neighborhood watch group.”

Matt York  /  AP file
The Arizona border with Mexico is the primary artery for illegal entry into the United States.  Nearly 600,000 of the more than 1 million undocumented immigrants detained by U.S. authorities last year, crossed that border.
Registration takes place all day Friday, starting at 9 a.m.  Throughout the day Minutemen volunteers will be treated to rallies and speeches before they receive their assignments to patrol a 23-mile patch of desert from Douglas to Naco.  The project is slated to last a month. Volunteers will patrol both night and day, and some will act as radio technicians to help rely any illegal immigrant activity to the Border Patrol.

Border Patrol officials have said they don’t endorse the group’s intentions. However, they’ve also said that any reports of illegal immigrant activity submitted to them will be acted on like countless other reports submitted every day by Arizona residents.

The volunteers have encamped themselves in several RV parks around the area. And 30 miles south of here, in the stubble and burr-filled field of the Miracle Bible College, which has offered its land to the volunteers, for a fee, volunteers have set up tents and staked their claim with state flags.

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