Bill Irwin, 47
Tucson, Ariz.

Bill Irwin has been a key player in the Minuteman border vigilante movement since its inception. Irwin participated in the original Minuteman Project operation in April 2005. He then became a founding member of Chris Simcox's splinter faction, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, after Minuteman Project co-founders Jim Gilchrist and Simcox clashed and went their separate ways.

Irwin rose to the post of national operations officer. In this role, Irwin coordinated logistics for all MCDC border watch operations from late 2005 through May 2007, when he, along with two other national officers, one regional leader and 14 of MCDC's 27 state unit leaders, were fired by Simcox because they demanded that Simcox meet with them to discuss their serious concerns about shady fundraising practices and lack of financial accountability.

Irwin.
Bill Irwin

During the summer of 2007, Irwin and the other purged MCDC leaders formed the Patriots Border Alliance, the newest, largest and best-organized Minuteman spin-off organization to conduct "citizen border patrol" operations in southern Arizona, California and Texas. The Patriots Border Alliance held a single-weekend border watch last August that drew about 50 volunteers. Then, in late September, the group drew more than 300 volunteers over the course of its inaugural month-long border watch, "Operation: Allied Minutemen," near Palominas, Ariz.

Recruiting materials for the Palominas operation proclaimed: "We present a forum in which all Minutemen are welcome to operate as one voice, within one movement, with one goal."

Last November, more than 100 members of the Patriots Border Alliance and United for a Sovereign America, a nativist extremist group led by Phoenix auto dealer Rusty Childress, held a counter-demonstration outside a Phoenix furniture store. The store had been targeted for protests by pro-immigrant activists after its owner hired off-duty Maricopa County sheriff's officers to hassle day laborers on and around the property.

After Simcox criticized the Patriots Border Alliance for aligning itself with Childress, the group issued a statement condemning Simcox for saying at a public forum last December that under certain conditions he would support taxpayer-funded benefits for the children of undocumented immigrants: "[Simcox] cheapens our efforts, all those dark, cold, lonely nights on the border [when] we stood post over a country already betrayed by the politicians we had elected." The Alliance also criticized Gilchrist.

"While we honor the part that these two figures [Gilchrist and Simcox] have played in this movement, we cannot accept or excuse these ill-advised and destructive stands," the PBA stated. "Patriots Border Alliance will not compromise, will not retreat, and will not sell out."