'Minutemen' Back on Border Patrol

ByABC News
April 3, 2006, 5:15 PM

April 3, 2006 -- -- A group of illegal migrants along the Arizona border became the first to encounter the controversial Minutemen this year.

The family of five had been lost in the desert for several days without food and water. The first structure they stumbled upon turned out to be a ranch used as the headquarters for the Minutemen. The family was turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Once again, a group of about 200, mostly older men and women, have taken their lawn chairs and staked out sections of the U.S.-Mexico border to observe and report illegal crossings to homeland defense authorities.

This is the second year for the all-volunteer force, and early indications suggest the number of Minutemen may eventually eclipse the number who spent a month on the border last year.

The group says it will have 1,000 volunteers in Arizona to mount around-the-clock shifts for the next 30 days. Last year some 300 to 400 volunteers showed up.

"We want border security first," said Chris Simcox, the national leader of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, as the group now calls itself.

Simcox says four watering stations set up by the group Human Borders to keep migrants from dying in the desert will be among the sites under surveillance.

Last year 400 people died trying to cross the desert, many of them from dehydration.

"We watch those stations all the time," Simcox said. "It's a great place to report illegal activities."

The Minutemen said they've learned new methods -- such as identifying specific smuggler routes -- from their efforts last year.

When the group first deployed there last year, there were several false alarms. In one case, a group of the volunteers pointed to what they believed to be "suspicious activity" on the Mexican border.

After closer inspection, it turned out to be a news crew from a Mexican television station.

The Border Patrol also criticized some of the Minutemen for tripping motion-detection sensors that are buried along the border.

This time many of the patrols will focus on private ranch lands about 20 to 35 miles north of the border --