Latinos to protest border project

By Brenda Gazzar, Daily Bulletin , March 17, 2005

A largely Latino network of activists is preparing to protest -- on both sides of the border -- a partially armed civilian border patrol operation that aims to deter illegal immigration next month.

Protest activities, spearheaded by the National Alliance for Human Rights, probably will include rallies and vigils in border cities such as Douglas, Ariz., to counter the Minuteman Project, which is expected to draw about 1,000 people from across the country to monitor and report illegal crossings during the month of April.

Latino activists protesting the Minuteman Project could also form a human chain across the border, and plan to protest Saturday in the Orange County neighborhood of Minuteman Project founder James Gilchrist, said Felipe Aguirre, legal coordinator of Comite Pro Uno, a Los Angeles-area based migrant advocacy group....

"They have their First Amendment right, just as we do," said David Heppler, safety and security coordinator of the Minuteman Project. "They can assemble and protest, just as we can, and we invite them to do it."

Minuteman's mission is to show that a significant presence can effectively seal the border and reduce unauthorized border crossings, Heppler said....

The American Friends Service in San Diego plans to send three people to Arizona to support local groups monitoring the situation, to make sure that any potential violations of law or abuse are documented, said Christian Ramirez, the organization's director....

Minuteman Project organizers contend they will abuse no one's rights and simply want to send a message about the country's national security and the risk of terrorism.

"I am not denying them their human rights," Heppler said, referring to the border crossers. "I welcome anyone. I respect them for wanting to have a better life, but they need to do it legally."

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