Released 04 October 2005  By Cari Hammerstrom - The Monitor
Minutemen will operate in Falfurrias
September 25, 2005
Organizer: Valley doesn't understand magnitude of immigration problem
FALFURRIAS: Mike Vickers, a Falfurrias veterinarian and landowner, has lived on a ranch for the better part of his life. He was born in a Corpus Christi farming and ranching community and moved to Falfurrias in April 1975.
His life experiences, he said, are much different from those living in the Rio Grande Valley, where he feels more citified folk don?t quite understand or want to understand the impact of illegal immigration.
His firsthand experiences are why he is one of the key organizers of the Falfurrias Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.
"We've always had traffic," he said on a recent evening on his ranch, located near the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint. He had just closed up his clinic for the night, but was still in his scrubs. Vickers put on his cowboy hat and nursed a cold beer.
"Initially, it was the old Mexican peasant. The past five years, it's just been hordes of people, huge groups of 100 to 150."
"There's a violent segment coming across."
Vickers said illegal immigration is hidden even to those living just miles north of the Rio Grande.
People are stealing farm equipment and plowing down fences, letting loose cattle and littering the Valley, he said.
In fact, Vickers says, some times up to seven to nine times a night, his cattle meander onto U.S. Highway 281 because an illegal immigrant cut his fence. He now has 7.5 miles of his fence electrified, but "powered down so it won?t kill ?em."
"People of the Valley are not exposed to the reality of the situation. They don?t know the magnitude of the problem," he said.
And it's not just property destruction that worries Vickers.
"Three days after the (presidential) inauguration...I was fixing a hole in my fence. I found dinars," he said of the Sudanese currency. "Sudan is an Arab terrorist state.
"The terrorist threat is incredible," he said. "We're demanding change."
The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps'"Secure Our Borders" campaign begins Oct. 1.
Texas coordinator Al Garza, who replaced Bill Parmley after he resigned because of alleged racism in the Goliad group, is touting Falfurrias as Texas? biggest Minuteman post.
"We have 300 to 500 who are trained and pre-qualified for the Falfurrias Operation," Garza said.
"It's less urban. We have more cooperation from the ranchers," Garza said. "Those are the ones who cried out the loudest. We go where it makes sense."
The decision to stay away from the Rio Grande Valley has nothing to do with the group organizing an anti-Minuteman white ribbon campaign in Brownsville, he said, or the resolution Cameron County commissioners unanimously approved last week to decry the Minuteman group and its plans to patrol Brownsville.
The Minuteman group could still come to the Valley-a few landowners living in Starr County and around the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge are interested-but "it depends on our manpower," Garza said. "We could potentially wind up in Brownsville."
Uncertainty was probably not a problem that plagued the original Minutemen, who confronted the British military at the battles of Concord and Lexington and produced the "shot heard around the world" that marked the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
Some feel the modern day Minutemen's vague public information, or even their possible disinformation, is proof of the group?s dark agenda.
Ray Ybarra, who works for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, has been monitoring "vigilante" activity in Texas for about a year and a half. He said that in Arizona, the ACLU had approximately 150 people following Minuteman volunteers around with video cameras, documenting their every move. No major incidents were reported, Ybarra said, citing the ACLU as the main cause for that.
But in Texas, Ybarra knows he will not be allowed on private property where the anti-illegal immigration group is planning its patrols.
"We can't get permission to get on the private land," he said. "The Minutemen are free to put their robes on...In Texas, we'll be seeing the true colors of the Minutemen."
It's obvious from the fact the group does not want anybody to monitor their actions that they have something to hide, Ybarra said. The media, too, will be barred from the volunteers, and protesters are not welcome. The Minuteman volunteers and the landowners don't want any problems, Garza said.
"We will be accepting the media at an undisclosed location," he said.
He said project coordinators tried to embed the press with the volunteers in Arizona, but it was "chaos."
"We learned from that experience."
When Vickers talks about the type of equipment the group has, he admits intentional ambiguity. But that is because the group does not want coyotes, or human smugglers, to know exactly what is in their arsenal.
"We have sophisticated equipment," he said, mentioning a 30-plane air force and thermal imaging. But then he stops himself from saying any more.
"They want to hunt down people," Ybarra said. "They want to corner them ? and be armed with hatred."
However people feel about the Minutemen, it has not deterred the group. The patrols have already begun.
Over Labor Day weekend, 25 supervisors met at Vickers-Falfurrias ranch to conduct a training session dubbed Operation Forward Air Control. The observation plane used was a vintage 1943 Stinson L-5 used in World War II and in the Korean War, Vickers said. They also practiced spotting illegal immigrants at ground level.
There were some illegal immigrants spotted within King Ranch and at the Falfurrias roadside park, he said. The group practiced calling in their coordinates-a few spotters are stationed at specified GPS points ? to the Border Patrol. The Border Patrol responded to calls in about 10 minutes, he said. Other training sessions have been conducted in the Falfurrias area as well.
"We are the eyes and ears for the Border Patrol," Garza said. "We observe, spot and report."
Despite what Washington says, the "ground-pounders" of the Border Patrol feel the Minuteman group is helping the federal agents do their jobs, he said.
The volunteers are not doing the job of the agents.
"The rank and file are excited we're here," Vickers said, adding that, so far, there?s been a spirit of cooperation.
"In Arizona, we sent a clear message from Day One," Garza said. "It does make a big difference."
If the elected officials-who forget they are elected-don't want to take a stand, he said, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps will.
"The American citizens are frustrated...we are not asking the government for help. We are demanding it."
Cari Hammerstrom covers law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach her at (956) 683-4424.