Minutemen localize effort
By SARAH N. LYNCH TRIBUNE —
A drive along Mesa’s Broadway Road was all it took to convince Peter “PJ” O’Malley to join the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.
“(You) see for miles at every corner there are people who are begging for work and causing traffic jams,” said the 64-year-old Mesa resident who joined the group as a volunteer three years ago.
O’Malley has tried to raise awareness about immigration issues through street protests and speaking at Mesa City Council meetings. But he’s now planning to intensify his efforts to lobby city officials about what he sees as their role in the fight against illegal immigration.
In the coming months, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps plans to launch an East Valley chapter as part of a statewide reorganization that the group hopes will allow it to have more influence on local government decisions, said Don Goldwater, the group’s spokesman.
The organization already has at least one high-profile ally in Mesa —Mayor Keno Hawker.
Hawker is a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. And in recent years he has pushed for the council to support deputizing local law enforcement to act as immigration agents. Hawker said he’s glad to hear the group plans to get more involved in Mesa.
“I thought the attitude in Mesa and other cities was one of complacency — that it is purely the federal government’s responsibility, so don’t get involved,” Hawker said.
Until recently, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps only had two large chapters in Arizona, one in Phoenix and the other in Tucson.
The Phoenix chapter goes from Casa Grande to the north. It has members from Mesa, Scottsdale and Apache Junction, but its size makes it hard for the volunteers to remain active in local immigration issues, Goldwater said.
Now, members from Mesa, Gilbert, Tempe and Chandler will have their own chapter.
“The Phoenix chapter was too large,” Goldwater said. “Essentially when I took it over right after the election, it was a one-man show as far as administrative capabilities and gathering volunteers together to do issues on the border.”
The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps relies mainly on volunteer members such as Hawker to accomplish its mission: “to see the borders and coastal boundaries of the United States secured against the unlawful and unauthorized entry of all individuals, contraband, and foreign military,” according to the group’s Web site.
Goldwater hopes the formation of local chapters will result in more group members showing up at city meetings and encourage more volunteers to send letters, faxes and e-mails to elected officials.
O’Malley is one volunteer who has taken the lead in Mesa.
Last year, he organized 42 small protests on Broadway Road and Mesa Drive — a wellknown gathering site for illegal immigrants looking for work.
O’Malley also has spoken about immigration issues at City Council meetings. He said he’s disappointed that other Mesa council members have not followed the mayor’s lead.
Ultimately, he said, the organization would like to see fellow members run for local offices or convince elected officials to join their cause.
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