Released 29 March 2007  By Migra Matters
Missing funds cause rift in vigilante group
February 27, 2007
Last summer news of missing funds initiated a near meltdown within the ranks
of the Minutemen. When financial statements showed that much of the $1.6 mil
dollars raised to build barricades along the border was unaccounted for,
Minuteman Civil Defense Corp founder, Chris Simcox, faced numerous
defections and challenges to power from disgruntled fellow vigilantes.
Now his former partner, and Minuteman Project co-founder, Jim Gilchrist, has
been ousted from the leadership of his group amongst allegations of the
misappropriation of $400,000 in donations intended to fund border patrol
Although Gilchrist denied the allegations, saying the controversy "could
very well bring an end to the entire Minuteman Project", the case has now
moved to a California courtroom where a judge will be making a decision that
could very well determine if Gilchrist will remain the public face of the
"....A behind-the-scenes power struggle over control of the Minuteman Project
spilled into an Orange County courtroom Monday with ousted co-founder Jim
Gilchrist asking a judge to give him back control of the citizen border
Superior Court Judge Randell L. Wilkinson said he would issue a ruling
within a few days.
Gilchrist, 58, a national figure in the fight against illegal immigration,
was removed as president of the Minuteman Project this month by its board of
directors, which accused him of abusing his power and leaving more than
$400,000 of the organization's money unaccounted for.
Gilchrist, a retired accountant from Aliso Viejo, denied the allegations
but said the controversy "could very well bring an end to the entire
Minuteman Project. There are groups around the country with the name, but we
are the most well known and the most powerful.
Gilchrist said in an interview that his opponents were motivated by "a
greed for power and a false perception of an endless stream of money."
Gilchrist said all money raised by his organization was accounted for and
that his critics had leveled false allegations to gain control of the
organization...." -- LA Times Feb. 27,2007
Yet, Gilchrist's opponents see things a little differently.
"...Deborah Courtney, the group's recently appointed treasurer, said in an
interview that a direct mail company helped raise $750,000 for the group in
2006, but that she believes the Minuteman campaign received only $311,000.
Courtney said she and others had been unable to trace the rest of the money.
Opponents also allege in interviews that he used Minuteman funds to promote
the book he co-wrote -- "Minutemen: The Battle to Secure America's Borders" --
but kept the royalties...." -- LA Times Feb. 27,2007
Additionally, a complaint against Gilchrist was recently filed with the
Internal Revenue Service by opponents who alleged that he never obtain
nonprofit status for the group and that he used another organization's
nonprofit status to receive discounted nonprofit postal rates.
Infighting, power struggles and questions of financial misconduct are
nothing new in the world of the Minutemen. The Minuteman Project has been
plagued by controversy from the start. The question is; will Gilchrist
survive this newest round of rebellion from within?
The Minuteman Project has never been too particular about who they associate
with and has a long history of association with far-right fringe elements
like the neo-Nazi National Alliance, Joe Turner's Save Our State, and
Barbara Coe of the CCIR (California Coalition for Immigration Reform.)
Since the split between Minuteman Project co-founders Simcox and Gilchrist
that left Gilchrist at the helm of the original organization with Simcox
running the rival Minuteman Civil Defense Corp, Gilchrist has been forced to
compete with a growing number of new vigilante groups for members, funding,
media attention and allies. Currently there are about 200 loosely affiliated
Minuteman groups operating across the country ? with new ones starting all
the time. This added competition has left Gilchrist vulnerable to attacks
from both the fringe right and those wishing to move the group into the
Opponents state that Gilchrist has outgrown his usefulness to the "movement"
and it's time for its chief spokesman to take a powder.
"....Robert Vasquez, a former county commissioner in Idaho who sued companies
that hired illegal workers, said top conservative Minuteman leaders turned
against Gilchrist, including Barbara Coe. She heads the California Coalition
for Immigration Reform and co-wrote Proposition 187, the ballot measure that
sought to deny undocumented immigrants certain public benefits.
"Sometimes a position becomes bigger than the man," Vasquez said. "It's
unfortunate that it has reached this point...." -- LA Times Feb 28, 2007
"...It is absolutely traumatic," said Coe, of Huntington Beach. "I had total
loyalty to him, and I reassured Jim many times. I pleaded with him, I begged
him to [work] with us who were trying to resolve the problems with the
Minuteman Project...." LA Times Feb. 2, 2007
Marvin Stewart, who to replace Gilchrist in February after a vote by board
members, said Gilchrist's charisma "is what got me on the team. It attracted
people across the nation to come aboard.... But when we talk about the rule of
law as an organization fighting illegal immigration, we too as an
organization must be in compliance with the rule of law, when we allow these
things to occur with any organization, we send a message to the public."
As a centralized Minuteman movement slowly unravels, to be replaced by a
loose-knit amalgam of vigilantes and cazamigrantes (immigrant hunters)
around the country, it is inevitable that we will see an increase of
violence and racially motivated attacks.
In the fall of 2005, when there were only approximately 40 spin-off groups
(as opposed to today's 200), the Southern Poverty Law Center chronicled the
growing violence in these spin-off groups.
"...Trigger happy," Goliad County, Texas, Sheriff Robert DeLaGarza thought to
himself. It was early July and DeLaGarza was meeting with members of the
Texas Minuteman Corps, a new vigilante border patrol outfit that started
recruiting in DeLaGarza's county in June.
"They kept talking a lot about shooting illegals, and what they could and
couldn't do to make it self-defense of life or property," DeLaGarza said.
"One woman kept asking, 'Well, what if they reach for a rock, can we shoot
them then? What if they're on private land? Can we shoot them for
DeLaGarza gave the vigilantes a stern warning: "My community doesn't
tolerate racism or racist violence in any form. I told them that if they
step one inch out of line, I'm going to hammer their ass."
Later that month in California, two Mexicans were wounded in separate
shootings the same night along a 14-mile stretch of the border between Campo
and Tecate, Calif., that was being patrolled by the California Minutemen,
another new vigilante border patrol group.
Inspired by the Minuteman Project, .... more than 40 anti-immigration
"citizens border patrol" and "internal vigilance" groups have formed since
early May. The original Minuteman Project's leaders, Jim Gilchrist and Chris
Simcox, have little or no control over most of these splinters, spin-offs
and imitators....." -- SPLC (http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?pid=953)
More recently we've seen increased violence aimed at migrants. This past
month alone there were three separate incidents along the Arizona border,
two resulting in deaths. We cannot be sure if these attacks were the actions
of border vigilantes, or other criminal elements, but whenever there is a
growing movement like that of the Minutemen, with it's mix of racism,
militarism, and xenophobia, conditions are ripe for violence. When this is
coupled with a lack of any real centralized leadership or accountability,
violence is all but inevitable.
The original Minuteman Project was already the home of numerous far-right
white supremacist and neo-Nazi deviants. Like a cancer, the further break-up
of the group will only send these infected cells out to further metastasize
and spread their message of hate and violence to infect the nation.
San Diego Union-Tribune: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/state/20070227-1321-ca-minutemanproject-dispute.html
Washington Times: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/state/20070227-1321-ca-minutemanproject-dispute.html