The Minuteman Project was a vigilante organization started in August 2004 by a group of private individuals in the United States to extrajudicially monitor the United States – Mexico border's flow of Undocumented immigrants. Founded by Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox, the name derives from the Minutemen, militiamen who fought in the American Revolution. The Minuteman Project describes itself as "a citizens' Neighborhood Watch on our border", and has attracted media attention to illegal immigration.
In addition to border watching, the project created a political action committee lobbying for representatives supporting proactive immigration law enforcement and border security issues. Members believe government officials have failed to protect the country from foreign enemy invasion. They strongly support building a wall and placing additional border patrol agents or involving the military to curb free movement across the Mexico-United States border. Roughly half of the members strongly oppose amnesty and a guest worker program, and an overwhelming number oppose sending funds to Mexico to improve infrastructure.
First border watchEdit
In early 2005, Gilchrist and Simcox rallied over 1,200 volunteers to carry out the first border watch. For one month, activists guarded the 23 mile Arizona-Mexico border, keeping count of the number of migrants approaching, reporting their presence, and scaring them away from crossing through this stretch. Many activists came from Utah, and soon after joined forces with local groups to form the Utah Minuteman Project (UMP), which focused on raising public awareness regarding the "threat of immigration" through local media and public debates.
On April 6, 2005, three Minuteman Project volunteers convinced a 25-year-old man to hold a T-shirt and pose for a photograph and a video with one of the volunteers. The T‑shirt, which was also worn by volunteer Bryan Barton, read "Bryan Barton caught me crossing the border and all I got was this lousy T‑shirt".
The volunteer approached the young man near a main highway while off duty from patrolling. He then contacted the Border Patrol. He gave $20 to the man as the U.S. Border Patrol arrived and took the man into custody. Critics of the MMP raised questions about the incident, but an investigation by the Cochise County Sheriff's office cleared the volunteer of any wrongdoing. The Border Patrol and the Mexican consul agreed that no crime had been committed.
Garden Grove incidentEdit
On May 25, 2005, James Gilchrist spoke in Garden Grove, California, to the California Coalition for Immigration Reform at the Garden Grove Women's Club. Hal Netkin, a Minuteman collaborator, came to the event. Netkin's car was surrounded as he arrived at the location and demonstrators allegedly rocked the vehicle and banged on it. Garden Grove Police Lt. Mike Handfield claimed that some of the 300 demonstrators were there "not to protest but to commit criminal acts" and that "A small contingent of people that were troublemakers had backpacks filled with full cans of soda that they were throwing and also cans filled with marbles that they threw." Lt. Handfield claimed that, "We determined it was reasonable for him to move forward" through the crowd surrounding his car. Two people who were standing in front of Netkin's car fell down when he moved forward. Both went to the hospital. The police declared an illegal assembly. "It got out of control in terms of protesters getting violent", Lt. Handfield said. Jan Tucker, who accompanied state and local leaders of the League of United Latin American Citizens to the talk, stated that the crowd outside the building was peaceful.
Stopping aid to illegal immigrants on the borderEdit
In January 2006, the actions of California Minutemen helped influence the cancellation of a program sponsored by Humane Borders and the government of Mexico to supply over 70,000 maps to migrants to aid their illegal entry into the United States. The maps were not designed to encourage illegal entry into the country, rather, they were aimed at mitigating death and injury by mapping out the positions of water stations, rescue beacons and recorded deaths. However, Miguel Angel Paredes, a spokesman for Mexico's National Human Rights Commission said "this would be practically like telling the Minutemen where the migrants are going to be" and as such, they'd have to "rethink this, so that we wouldn't almost be handing them over to groups that attack migrants".
Columbia University incidentEdit
On October 4, 2006, approximately forty students and demonstrators allegedly stormed the stage of Alfred Lerner Hall during a Minuteman presentation at Columbia University in New York City, where Board Members Marvin Stewart and Gilchrist had been invited to speak. The student protesters rushed onto the stage with a yellow banner toward Stewart and supposedly disrupted the presentation by exciting the crowd, who cheered the protesters on and heckled the speaker. The protesters then gathered outside the Columbia University gates and continued chanting. The protest was quickly broken up by security workers. The event spawned a public discussion at Columbia over freedom of speech and transparency regarding the process through which controversial speakers are invited to speak. Columbia University president Lee Bollinger stated in a campus-wide email that "No one ... shall have the right or the power to use the cover of protest to silence speakers". The event was monitored by several media organizations. Neil Cavuto of Fox News interviewed Stewart, an African American, to announce a hate crime lawsuit against Columbia University for racial insults that Stewart claims he endured during his 55‑minute speech. Though no racial epithets can be heard in the video footage of the event, rebels can audibly be heard calling the speakers "racists", "murderers", and, later, chanting "racists, fascists go away!"
August 2007 fake murder videoEdit
In August 2007 the Southern Poverty Law Center reported the surfacing of two videos which depicted the murder of an alleged illegal immigrant along the Mexico/California border by two Minutemen. These videos appeared briefly on YouTube but were removed. In this video, a figure is videotaped in night vision being shot while two narrators exchange obscene comments expressing satisfaction about doing so.
A few days later, Minuteman representatives alleged to a San Diego TV station that the videos were made by members of the Mountain Minutemen group and that they were fake. Robert "Little Dog" Crooks, who admitted making the video, said "we're old men and we're bored" and said he made the video to express a political opinion about an immigration bill being debated. Minuteman Project leader Jim Gilchrist would later ban cooperation by members of his group with the Mountain Minutemen in response to the video incident.
On April 28, 2005, then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the Minuteman Project during an interview on The John and Ken Show on Los Angeles radio station KFI, saying that the group had been doing "a terrific job". He reiterated his supportive comments the following day, noting that the Minutemen would be welcome to patrol the border between California and Mexico.
Discussions during the 2016 presidential election regarding building a wall and mass deportation directly aligned with the project's missions. Gilchrist stated that he felt his goals were reaffirmed and accomplished upon observing such widespread awareness surrounding immigration issues. He initially supported Ted Cruz for president, who openly criticized Barack Obama's policy of amnesty and was a consistent opponents against Obama's push for immigration reform.
The project has generated controversy, drawing criticism from former Mexican President Vicente Fox and former United States President George W. Bush, who expressed dislike for "vigilante" border projects. In 2005, James Gilchrist said he had been told that the Latino criminal organization MS13 had "issued orders to teach 'a lesson'" to the Minutemen. The Minuteman Project and its chapters have been called an extreme nativist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Anti-Defamation League has observed that Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups have campaigned alongside them. The ADL reported an official connection between these groups has been established. In December 2005 James Chase turned over leadership of the California Minutemen (CMM) & the national Border Watch Federation (BWF) to his son, Mike Chase. Recruits, operations and the influence of the California Minutemen continued to grow, and the North County Times complained of Mike Chase's appointment to the political steering committee of California Senator Bill Morrow's campaign for the 50th District Congressional seat vacated by Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
In a June 2008 interview with the OC Register, Jim Gilchrist stated, "Am I happy at the outcome of this whole movement? I am very, very sad, very disappointed". He also added, "There's all kinds of organizations that have spawned from the Minuteman Project and I have to say, some of the people who have gotten into this movement have sinister intentions. ...I have found, after four years in this movement...I very well may have been fighting for people with less character and less integrity than the 'open border fanatics' I have been fighting against", Gilchrist concluded. "And that is a phenomenal indictment of something I have created."
Members of an advisory board for Minuteman Project, Inc. took control of the organization's bank account and, at least temporarily, took control of the Minuteman Project's main web site, Jim Gilchrist filed a lawsuit in Orange County, California, against three of the members of the group that claimed to be members of a board of directors: Marvin Stewart, Deborah Courtney and Barbara Coe.
Stewart, Courtney and Coe alleged that they constituted the Board of Directors of Minuteman Project, Inc. and fired Gilchrist for a variety of reasons. Gilchrist fired Stewart and Courtney. Rather than accept their termination, Stewart and Courtney filed papers with the Secretary of State of Delaware saying that they were the Board of Directors and Officers of the Corporation.
Stewart and Courtney are defendants in another action brought by Minuteman Project. The former volunteers at one point ran out of money to afford legal counsel and were forced to represent themselves in court. That trial began January 4, 2010. On February 5, 2010, Judge Wilkinson issued a Statement of Decision finding that Stewart and Courtney were legally fired from Minuteman Project, Inc. on February 2, 2007. The February meeting was properly noticed, the purpose of the special meeting (the firing of Courtney, Coe and Stewart) was noticed, and Courtney, Coe and Stewart were in attendance at the meeting. The court ruled previous meetings the pair held purporting to fire other members of the board were lacking - in that they neither gave notice, nor had a quorum and the directors lacked authority. At that meeting Barbara Coe resigned her position (giving her resignation from MMP, Inc. to Jim Gilchrist, its president) and Stewart and Courtney were fired. Judge Wilkinson ruled that the two defendants were legally terminated from the board of MMP on February 2, 2007 and "under no circumstances" are they board members after February 2, 2007. He issued a permanent injunction against their claiming that they are board members, officers, members or spokespersons for the Minuteman Project, called for them to remove any websites making those false claims, and finally ordered them to return to MMP any of its property they have in their possession.
The ruling affirmed Gilchrist's position as head of Minuteman Project, Inc. and its successor organization Jim Gilchrist's Minuteman Project, Inc.
Various media representatives, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and observers from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) are also in the patrol zone attempting to observe Minutemen volunteers at work. In November 2006, ACLU released a report detailing the Minuteman Campaign and stated that a large number of daily newspapers "wildly exaggerated" the number of volunteers who actually participated in the group's operation in southeastern Arizona in April 2005.
Individuals who claimed to be Minuteman Project's board of directors claimed they removed Gilchrist as head of the Minuteman Project amid allegations of fraud and financial mismanagement, but a representative of the Delaware Secretary of State told the Los Angeles Times that only Gilchrist could make those changes. In a May 2007 interview, Gilchrist claimed: "I'm the President and always was. I got the corporation back. I have the right to the web site, the bank account, everything. We are back in the same position as we were prior to the hijacking." Judge Wilkinson issued an interim ruling barring the board members from spending Minuteman Project donations until Gilchrist's lawsuit is resolved. In April 2007, Gilchrist announced the formation of a new non-profit corporation, named Jim Gilchrist's Minuteman Project, Inc.
In popular cultureEdit
- The Minuteman were depicted in the West Wing episode "Message of the Week"
- Doug Wilson poses as Minuteman to help out Andy Botwin's coyote service for undocumented Mexican immigrants in Season 4 of Weeds
- In the film The Heartbreak Kid, Minutemen are depicted halting Ben Stiller's character's illegal "reentry" into the United States
- Minutemen are depicted as the villains in the 2010 Robert Rodriguez film Machete.
- The Minutemen (2011) is a Verite Documentary that tells the story of seven Minutemen living along the U.S.–Mexico Border
- In Grand Theft Auto V, a group of activists called the "Civil Border Patrol" monitor the city of Los Santos and Blaine County for undocumented immigrants. When missions involving the CBP spawn on the map, they are sometimes labelled as "minutemen".
This article has an unclear citation style.September 2009) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)(
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- Jennifer Delson (March 11, 2007). "A Minuteman meets his hour of crisis: Jim Gilchrist, co‑founder of the anti-illegal immigrant group, battles three board members for the organization's control. In early February, papers were filed with the state of Delaware showing that Stewart was the organization's new president and Courtney was the new treasurer. An official with the Delaware secretary of state's office said no one but Gilchrist could legally make those changes. Less than three weeks later, Gilchrist sued Coe, Courtney and Stewart, alleging they had no authority, they stole monies from the organizations bank account and commandeered his website". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 11, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
In early February, papers were filed with the state of Delaware showing that Stewart was the organization's new president and Courtney was the new treasurer. An official with the Delaware secretary of state's office said no one but Gilchrist could legally make those changes.
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Gilchrist last month won a key ruling that Gilchrist is not personally liable to Courtney for back pay, which she estimated at more than $100,000.
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Judge Randell Wilkinson heard motions last week that could result in large parts of the case against Gilchrist being thrown out. He is expected to rule next week.
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We are delighted with this critical ruling. We look forward to presenting evidence of the extensive damages caused by the defendants' conduct.
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Any hopes on the part of the hijackers of gaining control of Minuteman Project through the courts are dashed.
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Q: How do you answer charges of racism against you and the MMP? A: My son-in-law is Mexican and so are 2 of my 3 grandchildren. Ray Herrera is a Mexican, he's the MMP national rally spokesman. Many of the people affiliated with MMP are Mexican. The racism card is the last resort of a scoundrel who has lost his argument.
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