New Hampshire Minutemen Guard Northern Border


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Devonai
April 6, 2006, 07:47 AM
Citizen watchdogs head to NH border
By SCOTT BROOKS
Union Leader Staff
7 hours, 30 minutes ago


Members of a national organization devoted to fighting illegal immigration are planning to stake out New Hampshire’s northern border this weekend.

Citizen watchdogs from the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps will head north to Pittsburg Saturday to watch for illegal crossings at the Canadian border. Their vigil coincides with monthlong citizen border patrols in Arizona and other states where illegal immigration is under fire.

“We’re equipped and ready to report what we see,” said Ron Oplinus, 64, a Minuteman from Exeter.

Between six and eight Minutemen promise to plant their lawn chairs by the border, binoculars in hand. Oplinus said they’ll be in touch with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in the event they observe any illegal activity.

“We’re actually helping them,” he said. “We’re not trying to do their job; they’re doing a very good job. There just aren’t enough of them.”

The Phoenix-based Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, which launched its border-watching campaign last year, claims up to 500 volunteers are currently trolling the borderline in Texas and Arizona and reporting their sightings to U.S. border enforcement. Several dozen are doing the same in New Mexico and California.

Their campaign comes as Congress and the Bush administration debate several proposals for immigration reform. Activists from both sides of the issue have organized massive rallies in major cities across the country.

The controversy has played out in New Hampshire, where last month the state Senate voted to penalize employers who hire illegal immigrants. On Tuesday, a number of New Hampshire labor and business leaders criticized the bill at a House committee hearing.

Oplinus, a recently retired engineer, said he suspects thousands of undocumented aliens are living and working in New Hampshire. He cannot say how many may have slipped across the border from Canada.

“Yeah, the major problems are on the southern (U.S.) border, as far as I know,” Oplinus said. “But how do we know?”

Since October 2004, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has arrested 2,475 illegal immigrants along a nearly 300-mile stretch from upstate New York to New Hampshire’s northeastern tip.

Ross DeLacy, a spokesman for the agency, said the Minutemen are welcome to do as they like, provided they do not interfere with official operations.

“If they want to go sit and hang out on public property with a pair of binoculars and a cell phone, as long as they’re not breaking any laws, that’s fine,” he said.

Last fall, a gathering of Minutemen patrolled the Canadian border in the village of Derby Line, Vt. In four days, the group did not observe any illegal immigrants, although some members reported seeing a pair of cars acting suspiciously, Oplinus said.

Oplinus does not have any expectations for catching aliens this Saturday, or when the Minutemen return to Pittsburg April 22 and 23.

“We would be surprised if we did,” he said. “There’s not a lot of traffic. However, you never know. That’s the insidious thing about this. We don’t know because the border patrol isn’t there all the time.”

Pittsburg Police Chief Richard Lapoint said he doesn’t object to the Minutemen’s presence, although he does not see much reason for it. Border Protection does an adequate job as it is, he said.

“I don’t think they’re troublemakers,” Lapoint said. “I just don’t think there’s a need for them.”

What these gentlemen need to do, IMNSHO, is reorganize the New Hampshire State Guard (currently inactive), or see about inviting the Massachusetts State Guard up to help out. Otherwise they're just throwing a penny into a wishing well the size of Nebraska.

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