The gang's all here...

Fri Apr. 1, 2005 5:26 PM EST

Here's a bad idea: get a group of thrill-seeking armed volunteers to scour the Arizona-Mexico border for illegal immigrants. That's the premise behind the "Minuteman Project." You have to admit, they have a killer slogan: "Americans doing the jobs Congress won't do." But for some reason the concept doesn't seem to be sitting well with too many people.

Mexican President Vicente Fox as well as President Bush have already condemned the vigilantes, the ACLU has volunteers out monitoring the project, and the press is on the watch for a showdown. The New York Times writes of one Minuteman volunteer: "People like Mr. McCarty, the retired marine, say they are here for the distraction, and the thrill. 'I'm restless,' Mr. McCarty said, leaning against an adobe fence in the midday sun. 'I needed something to do before I drove my wife crazy.'"

The situation might seem funny until one considers the potential for ugliness. The founder of the Minuteman Project insists that the volunteers will simply "inform" border patrol officials if they find an illegal immigrant, and not handle the immigrants themselves. However, the fact that many of the volunteers will be carrying concealed firearms is cause for alarm. Human rights groups have also expressed concern that some white supremacist groups have endorsed the Minuteman Project. Even more troubling is the fact that the volunteers have come from all across the country and may be unfamiliar with the Arizona border. The areas they plan to patrol have large Hispanic populations, leading some to worry that the wrong people will be targeted as "illegals."

Meanwhile, the "minutemen" may get a visit from members of the violent Central American-based gang, Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13. One of the organizers of the Minuteman Project has been told that California and Texas leaders of MS-13 "have issued orders to teach 'a lesson' to the Minutemen volunteers." According to the organizer, James Gilchrist, he's "not worried because half of our recruits are retired trained combat soldiers and those guys are just a bunch of punks."

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