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Border Patrol chief reaches out to Minutemen

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/20/AR2005072001897_pf.html Border Chief Reaches Out to Volunteers By JEREMIAH MARQUEZ The
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 20 6:49 PM
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      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/20/AR2005072001897_pf.html

      Border Chief Reaches Out to Volunteers

      By JEREMIAH MARQUEZ
      The Associated Press
      Wednesday, July 20, 2005; 7:56 PM

      LOS ANGELES -- The top U.S. border enforcement
      official said Wednesday that his agency is exploring
      ways to involve citizen volunteers in creating
      "something akin to a Border Patrol auxiliary" _ a
      significant shift in rhetoric that comes after a
      high-profile civilian campaign this spring along the
      Arizona-Mexico border.

      Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C.
      Bonner told The Associated Press that his agency has
      focused on involving citizens after noting the
      willingness of volunteers to help federal agents catch
      illegal immigrants.

      "It is actually as a result of seeing that there is
      the possibility in local border communities, and maybe
      even beyond, of having citizens that would be willing
      to volunteer to help the Border Patrol," Bonner said.

      Volunteers would need training and be organized "in a
      way that would be something akin to a Border Patrol
      auxiliary," he said. "We value having eyes and ears of
      citizens and I think that would be one of the things
      we are looking at is how you better organize, let's
      say, a citizen effort."

      Bonner characterized the idea as "an area we're
      looking at." Questions such as what kind of authority
      volunteers would be given _ would they be deputized to
      make arrests or carry guns _ haven't been answered.

      "This is what we need to study," said Bonner, who was
      in Los Angeles to discuss port security.

      In April, hundreds of volunteers joined the Minuteman
      Project to patrol a 23-mile stretch of the
      Arizona-Mexico border, generating international
      attention and criticism and spawning similar
      campaigns.

      Until now, Border Patrol officials have generally
      criticized civilian efforts to police the nation's
      borders, saying it was the job of trained law
      enforcement officers. President Bush has expressed his
      opposition to border "vigilantes."

      "The Border Patrol does this every day, and they are
      qualified and very well-trained to handle the
      situation," Bonner said in February, noting that the
      Minutemen planned to carry firearms. "Ordinary
      Americans are not. So there's a danger that not just
      illegal migrants might get hurt, but that American
      citizens might get hurt in this situation."

      Customs and Border Protection had yet to tell Homeland
      Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and other top
      departmental officials of its discussions, though they
      would be briefed in coming months once the agency came
      up with a proposal, said CBP spokeswoman Kristi
      Clemens.

      "All proposals are being considered, including
      clerical work by volunteers that would free up more
      agents to secure our borders," Clemens said.
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