Minutemen: Border Vigilantes and Border Militarization


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No One is Illegal-Vancouver denounces and completely opposes the Minutemen Project. We oppose all such vigilante attacks against our communities. On October 1, 2005, the Minutemen launched their campaign on the U.S./Canadian border. They have already been met with clear opposition from community groups on both sides of the border. We affirm that this opposition will continue to grow and that we stand united against and will not tolerate any such activity on the Canadian side of this border.

Since April of 2005, the Minutemen have engaged in the targeting of racialized communities under the pretext of preserving U.S. security. The Minuteman Project has arisen out of a history of vigilante groups patrolling the U.S/Mexico border against “illegals” and “potential terrorists”. The post 9/11 climate has perpetuated the false association between migrants and terrorism. A new anti-terrorist paradigm guides enforcement and immigration matters are now contextualized within the “war on terrorism” where the result is an increased number of abuses of migrants and racialized communities. The very basis of racial profiling is the double standard by which individual members of communities are stereotyped and legislation is passed and legitimized to criminalize their civil liberties and human rights. The Minutemen Project is based on this very false consciousness.

Members of the Minuteman Project have been shown to have clear ties with white supremacist groups such as the National Alliance, yet they have attempted to distance themselves from the allegations of racially motivated actions by stating “ethnicity, race, religion and all such factors are incidental and … irrelevant in the debate over illegal immigration”. However, any just account of the migration of peoples of the Third World needs to recognize that ethnicity, race and religion have been central to the political, social and economic repression which are the driving forces behind this displacement. These borders have been made open to the free movement of the very corporations and neo-liberal policies causing oppressive displacement but decidedly closed to those migrating humans deemed undesirable.

Furthermore, the “illegal” movement to which they refer includes that of Indigenous peoples who are simply traversing borders which were imposed upon them, dividing their territories and communities. The Minutemen have falsely claimed that they have the support and are working in the best interest of Indigenous nations – protecting their land from the invasion of illegal migrants. However, various Indigenous communities have already denied such claims.

Finally, they have openly stated that they are concerned by the “tens of millions of invading illegal aliens who are devouring and plundering [their] nation”. The Minutemen have labeled migrants as being “people who wish to take advantage of a free society”. The reality is that the U.S. and Canadian economies take advantage of the cheap labour of such migrants – who work farms, cook food and clean homes- yet they remain invisible and under constant threat of inhumane immigration policies and racist backlash. By equating the movement of migrants to an “invasion”, they have clearly attempted to foster anti-migrant sentiment – furthering the threat of violence against already marginalized communities.

Therefore we, along with numerous civil rights organizations and community groups in the U.S., are gravely concerned by the impunity with which such a group that has clearly stated racist views and alliances has been allowed to carry out armed border patrols. It is not lost upon us that there exists an obvious political and social double standard, by which communities of color have been increasingly subjected to arbitrary detentions, racial profiling and charged for being terror suspects on secret evidence or no evidence, while vigilante groups whose work actually harms and terrorizes communities have been either openly or tacitly supported by government officials.

Besides the deployment of border patrol units, the Minutemen have put out national calls to recruit “informants” on “illegal aliens”, their employers and anyone engaged in what they term “identification fraud”. Their statements have promoted an environment of constant insecurity for those who are already the most insecure individuals of marginalized communities – people who suffer the greatest poverty, racism, inhumane working conditions and lack of social services; people who face exploitation on every front.

The Minutemen are a present day example of a history of violence towards migrants. Over 3,500 people have died crossing the US/Mexico border since 1994. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said at least 464 migrants died crossing the border from Mexico into the US during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. And let us remember that in the U.S. invasion of Mexico at least 25,000 Mexican people were murdered for the land the Minutemen patrol today.

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) implementation in 1994, the economic consequences of the neoliberal trade policy has created a multifaceted crisis that now dominates the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. Economically violent policies like NAFTA force people off their land and out of their communities- over 1.5 Million Mexican farmers have lost their farms as a result of NAFTA- to migrate towards the Northern economy to work in low-paying sectors of the economy that heavily rely on their hyper-exploitable labour.

The simultaneous militarization of the border through Operation Gatekeeper has drastically transformed the fragile desert land over the past decade. Black helicopters and unmanned drones patrol the desert by sky, searching for human beings with infrared cameras. Families living in Nogales, one city divided by the border, see a large concrete and steel wall topped with barbed wire everyday. Gatekeeper was developed with help from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Center for Low Intensity Conflicts and has been implemented in three phases. Each has raised the risks of migrants dying, yet Border Patrols confirms that the added dangers have not slowed the migrant foot traffic.

“Through my eyes, the problem is that what occurs on the U.S.-México border is one of the grossest human rights violations in the history of the United States,” states Ray Ybarra, American Civil Liberties Union spokesperson, “Here in our backyard, human beings have to face death and hatred.”

In a petition filed year before last with the Organization of American States, the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties and the Oceanside-based California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation have charged that the U.S. government has flagrantly abused human rights by resorting to a strategy at the border designed to maximize the physical risks, which cannot be reconciled with the obligation to protect life, be it an undocumented person’s or a citizen’s.

The end result of the Minuteman Project will be an even more militarized border; more migrant deaths, and more fear in our communities. We are disturbed by the fact that the Minutemen have stated their larger goal is setting “not only an example for other Americans to follow, but a precedent we hope will have a lasting effect on how border security is viewed for generations to come.” Canada and the US have already developed a militarized and integrated, so-called Smart Border Policy, including the Safe Third Country Agreement implemented in December 2004 and known to many as Fortress North America. We cannot forget our basic moral underpinnings as to how we treat other human beings.

For further reading:

The Anti-Immigration Movement: From Shovels to Suits by Solana Larsen, May 2007

Hate or Heroism: Vigilantes on the Arizona-Mexico Border by Border Action Nework, 2002

High-powered firearms, militia maneuvers and racism at the Minuteman Project by Southern Poverty Law Centre

Activists target Minutemen at the US-Canada Border by Harsha Walia in the Georgia Straight

Why We Confronted the Minutemen at Columbia and Fallout from the Minuteman Protest on Anti-Minutemen Protest at Columbia Univeristy in 2006

Newspapers Inflated Minuteman Numbers, Report Finds by Intelligence Report, Summer 2006

Vigilantes gather to stop immigrant ‘invasion’ by Southern Poverty Law Centre, April 2005

Minuteman Project on fear-mongering campaign by Southern Poverty Law Centre, Summer 2006

The Year in Hate: Hate Group Count Reaches 844 in 2006 by Southern Poverty Law Centre, Spring 2007