7/22/2005

Continuous non-enforcement

The Department of Homeland Security says it has no plans to enlist citizen volunteers in patrolling U.S. borders, rebuffing a proposal by its top border enforcement official. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner told The Associated Press on Wednesday his agency was considering the training of volunteers to create “something akin to a Border Patrol auxiliary.�

But Homeland Security spokesman Brian J. Roehrkasse said Thursday that Bonner, whose agency is part of Homeland Security, had not provided “any specific details� of his proposal to agency officials.

“There are currently no plans by the Department of Homeland Security to use civilian volunteers to patrol the border,� Roehrkasse said. “That job should continue to be done by the highly trained, professional law enforcement officials.�

Before a high-profile civilian campaign to fight illegal immigration along the Arizona-Mexico border was launched in April, Bonner had urged citizens not to interfere with his agents’ work, saying “ordinary Americans� weren’t qualified for what can be a dangerous task. But the so-called “Minuteman Project� apparently had an effect on his thinking. He said this week his agency decided to look into involving citizens after seeing how eager volunteers were to stop illegal immigration.

“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 in an interview Wednesday while visiting the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex.

Bonner said the idea was still conceptual and that details such as whether citizens would be deputized to enforce federal immigration law hadn’t been worked out. A spokeswoman said a range of proposals were being considered, including having volunteers do clerical work so more agents could work in the field.

Chris Simcox, a co-organizer of the Minuteman Project, said he wasn’t surprised that Bonner’s proposal was rebuffed, nor was he disappointed.

His organization “does not need the federal government to put its rubber stamp on us,� Simcox said. “Why would we want a federal government who can’t manage the borders as it is to co-opt our movement?�

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