updated 7/23/2005 10:49:01 PM ET 2005-07-24T02:49:01

Hundreds of demonstrators marched through the streets Saturday to protest a controversial civilian border patrol group, calling the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps racist and un-American.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, one of the oldest Latino civil rights organizations in the country, organized the march and rally to show that Minuteman volunteers were not wanted in the area.

“It’s a racist organization, there is no question,” said the league’s national treasurer, Jaime Martinez. “They say they will monitor the border, but now they are coming into our cities. Something has to be done.”

Minuteman volunteers, who plan to patrol parts of the border in New Mexico and Texas starting in October, have repeatedly denied claims of racism. The group gained international attention earlier this year when a contingent patrolled a section of the Mexican border in southern Arizona.

‘Sign the guest book’
William N. Norris, a coordinator for the group’s New Mexico chapter who attended Saturday’s rally, said the group’s goal is not to stop immigration, but to ensure that immigrants “fill out the paperwork and sign the guest book at the gate.”

Mary Jane Garcia, the majority whip of the New Mexico State Senate, called on the federal government to take action against the Minuteman volunteers and work on real reform of immigration laws.

Forcing Hispanic immigrants out of the country is not the answer, she said.

“What would happen if all the Mexicans were to leave this country tomorrow? They need us,” she said.

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