Minuteman corps plans new patrols along border
CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
PHOENIX - Claiming Border Patrol officers are being shipped out, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps is planning new patrols along the international border this weekend.
Chris Simcox, president of the group, said he's been told more than 100 Border Patrol agents from Arizona, Texas and New Mexico have been assigned to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina. That will leave a vacuum along the border, he said, one Simcox believes his organization can fill.
But the premise behind the Minuteman action may be flawed. Federal officials have denied that many Arizona agents, if any, are being deployed to the Gulf Coast.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed Friday that officers from Customs and Border Protection are providing air and marine support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as several state agencies dealing with hurricane victims.
The agency said more than 200 agents have been deployed "to provide security and law enforcement support during the evacuation" of New Orleans.
Border Patrol spokesman Jose Garza said Friday afternoon that he understands 100 officers have been committed nationwide. "That does not mean the Tucson Sector is going to send any yet," he said.
Barry Morrisey, a national Border Patrol spokesman, said Simcox's statements are "absolutely wrong."
"Border Patrol agents are coming from all parts of the country," he said. "They are not coming specifically from Arizona, Texas and New Mexico."
Morrisey, however, would not spell out how many Border Patrol agents are coming from Arizona. "When we move assets, we don't advertise it," he said.
But Connie Hair, a spokeswoman for the Minuteman corps, refused to back down. She said the information has come from Border Patrol officers themselves.
"All I can tell you is our sources have always been right," she said. Hair said they have told Minuteman officials that Border Patrol is "cherry-picking certain expertise with a heavy reliance on search and rescue," something she said is likely to hit Arizona hard.
Hair said there were already plans to have patrols along the border this weekend. She said the reassignment of regular Border Patrol officers elsewhere simply increases the need.
She said about 100 volunteers will be along the border. Hair would not specify what areas will be patrolled, saying that such information tells those who seek to cross into this country illegally where not to go.