San Diego Legal Observers Press Release

July 22, 2005

For Immediate Release Contact: Marisela Chevez, ACLU
Thursday, July 21, 2005 (619) 232-2121 ext 26


(San Diego) A Minuteman splinter group that brought a small number of volunteers to Campo, California, has yet to intercept any migrants, say lawyers who have joined forces to monitor the would-be vigilantes, many of whom are armed. From all reports, however, the past week was just a preview; Jim Chase’s group has summoned reinforcements and two other groups have announced that they, too, will patrol the California/ Mexico border over the next couple of months and probably in much larger numbers.

Predictably, the beginning of the patrols drew protesters. “The confrontations between the so-called California Minutemen and protesters that marked the past week serves to underscore the fact that immigration issues generate a lot of heat and that border enforcement should be left to professional law enforcement,” says Sylvia Baiz from San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, one of the legal observer coalition members. “More heat is the last thing we need when tempers are already frayed by record-breaking temperatures in the Campo area.”

Not to be confused with the protesters, the mission of the legal observers is neither to confront nor engage the Minutemen, but to monitor them so as to deter potential abuses of the migrants, such as assaults and unlawful arrests. The legal observers are sponsored by a coalition formed by the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties and the local chapters of the National Lawyers Guild, and the Association of Immigration Law Attorneys.

The legal observers wear distinctive yellow T-shirts and are equipped with binoculars and video cameras. Over the past week, the coalition has gone about the business of training observers, testing the range of its communications equipment and locating the lookout posts of the Minutemen. The coalition’s coordinator in Campo is Juan Gallegos. While in the field he can be reached by calling the following cell phone number: (619) 818-6074. Messages can also be left for him on the cell phone or at the ACLU office in San Diego: 619-232-2121, extension 28.

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