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Minutemen Forced Nation to Deal With Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration has become one of the United States’ hottest political topics and the focus of much attention this summer. While lingering concern over terrorism is certainly part of the reason, a considerable amount of credit belongs to the Minuteman Project that stationed volunteers along the U.S.-Mexico border to help enforce U.S. immigration laws.

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Even though the Minutemen have been demonized as vigilantes by many, they have been successful at generating attention and demonstrating the porous nature of America’s Southern border. In Minutemen: The Battle to Secure America’s Borders, founder Jim Gilchrist explains why he launched the Minuteman Project. (Gilchrist’s co-author is Jerome Corsi, a HumanEvents.com contributor and the co-author of the New York Times bestseller Unfit for Command, which was published by Regnery.)

Part of the book deals with Gilchrist’s personal story—his military service in Vietnam and his personal interest in the immigration issue are amply documented. However, much of the book deals with the authors’ concerns over the policy and politics of immigration. This is quite interesting because even though immigration has been receiving a considerable amount of political debate, individuals who do not live in border states are often unaware of the real consequences high levels of illegal immigration have in many parts of the United States.

One chapter of the book details the strain immigrants have placed on social services in many cities and towns. Furthermore, Gilchrist also gives examples of how illegal immigrants are often involved with either drug smuggling or organized-crime rings. Gilchrist describes how businesses are able to keep costs low by contracting with individuals who specialize in smuggling low-wage workers across the border. These large quantities of immigrants increase the supply of unskilled labor and place downward pressure on the wages of millions of Americans.

Even worse, Gilchrist documents how the Mexican government is complicit in many of the problems caused by immigration. The Mexican government actually has published guides to assist Mexicans who seek to cross the United States border illegally. Furthermore, the Mexican government is often unhelpful in extraditing Mexicans who have committed criminal offenses within the United States. The case of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy David March, who was killed in 2002 by an illegal immigrant, is discussed in great detail. March’s killer was eventually apprehended after his case received a considerable amount of media attention. However, the process took far longer than necessary due to the intransigence of the Mexican government.

Proposed Reforms

In addition to policy concerns over immigration, the book also discusses immigration politics. Gilchrist describes why many elites do not support better enforcement of immigration laws. Big business supports immigration because they want access to low wage labor. Even though many union members oppose increasing levels of immigration, union leadership sees immigrants as a way to increase their sagging membership rolls.

Finally, there is speculation as to why President Bush has not taken more aggressive action to secure America’s Southern border. Some analysts say Bush is influenced by big business or his desire to win the political support of Hispanics, others conclude that he thinks it would not be neighborly to have a militarized border with Mexico.

Regardless of Bush’s reasons, the authors sharply criticize the President and other elected officials for their unwillingness to take the immigration issue seriously. At the end of the book, they propose a series of reforms for U.S. immigration policy, including building a fence along the United States’ Southern border and securing domestic ports, and argue for greater enforcement of current immigration laws. According to the authors, if employers faced penalties for hiring illegal immigrants and if immigrants were no longer eligible for various welfare programs, mass deportations would not be necessary, because many illegal immigrants would simply leave on their own.

Overall, this book is a good primer for someone who is interested in knowing more about the concerns many conservatives have about the high number of illegal immigrants who currently reside in the country. In particular, the interviews the authors conduct with experts on immigration are interesting and helpful. More importantly, this book, along with the actual Minuteman Project, will hopefully continue to generate serious public attention toward the issue of immigration. By taking on the elite culture and documenting the problems caused by high levels of illegal immigrants, Gilchrist has performed a fine service for his country and his readers.

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Mr. New is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama.

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