The Arizona-based Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), a border vigilante group, has started "Operation Sovereignty," a month-long border watch operation, which will station volunteers along portions of the nation's borders to patrol for undocumented immigrants attempting to enter the United States. These groups will patrol borders in Arizona, California, and Texas and an area close to the U.S.-Canada border in Washington State. The operation, which began on March 28, will run through April 30, 2008.
Chris Simcox, the MCDC founder and president, stated that "Minutemen volunteers continue our mission of vigilant support, watching, and reporting along our largely unprotected borders, particularly during periods of increased border incursions." He reportedly expects 300 volunteers for each watch in Arizona, California, and Texas, and 100 in Washington State. Simcox has organized several border watches, the most notable being the April 2005 Minuteman Project, which he co-led with fellow border vigilante leader Jim Gilchrist along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. Several hundred volunteers, many armed, and a number of white supremacists participated in the 2005 action. Gilchrist and Simcox have since formed their own organizations, and Gilchrist presently leads the Minuteman Project.
Minutemen organizations routinely suggest that volunteers carry arms when patrolling the border. Operation Sovereignty directions include a number of recommendations to participants about gear to bring: For California participants a sidearm is "recommended but not required"; in Texas, "line supervisors will post at least one state licensed concealed handgun licensee to each watch post (station)"; in Arizona, "side arms are permitted but not required."
Carrying arms has gotten some Minutemen into trouble in the past. In 2004, Simcox was convicted on two misdemeanor counts for carrying a loaded firearm onto the Coronado National Memorial, a National Park Service property.
The Minutemen are fueled by an ideology that demonizes immigrants, particularly those from Mexico. The MCDC press release for the watch discusses "an increasing illegal alien migrant invasion" and a "worsening situation of criminal cartel border incursions and 'coyote' migrant-trafficking violence." Another MCDC announcement from Chris Simcox and MCDC Vice President Carmen Mercer states, "HELP US STOP the lawbreakers, terrorists, sex and drug traffickers from invading our country through its porous borders." Simcox's profile on an MCDC Website states, "We know drug dealers, gang bangers and too many criminal foreign nationals are creating havoc in our communities and threatening our public safety."
The MCDC claims to have 100 chapters in 50 states and "Minutemen on rolling Watch in local communities 365 days a year 24x7."