The Nativists

Around the country, an anti-immigration movement is spreading like wildfire. An array of activists is fanning the flames.

BOB WRIGHT
AGE: 47
EUNICE, N.M.

The spreading anti-immigration Minuteman movement in America is similar in a number of ways to the militia movement that was so remarkable in the 1990s. Both the militias and the Minutemen -- relatively new groups that have sought to end illegal immigration by running civilian border patrols -- involve private individuals acting in the name of patriotism to fix perceived social problems. Both sprang up out of frustration with the government and the idea that everyday citizens could rectify government's mistakes via paramilitary activism. And both have drawn participants from a broad cross-section of America, from the working class to the wealthy.

So it isn't much of a surprise to find militia members and leaders increasingly joining up. A case in point is Bob Wright, commander of the 1st Brigade New Mexico Militia, who recently began work as leader of the New Mexico branch of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. Patrolling this October near Hachita, N.M., Wright was joined by several militiamen, including Mike Vanderboegh, a former key militia leader from Alabama who now heads up the Minuteman group in that state.

It wasn't a wholly satisfactory effort. Wright's followers were joined by a group of horsemen who called themselves the "Rough Riders." Vanderboegh and a few others from Alabama brought military gadgets to aid in apprehensions. Wright himself says he sunk a considerable amount of his own money into setting up a "command post." But even with all that effort, Wright's group only reported a total of around 20 illegal border-crossers to the Border Patrol in a whole month.

Possibly as a result of his experience in the militia movement, Wright has taken pains to paint his group as a moderate one. He has insisted that his followers adhere to a "no contact" rule during their patrols. As a result, when a volunteer from Colorado was found during the October patrols with two illegal aliens in his car -- it was not clear what they were doing there or what the volunteer intended to do with them -- Wright immediately expelled the man. Wright was perfectly clear about his reasons. "[T]his operation can't afford that kind of stupidity," he said.