At the Ready

The Minutemen have come to Texas

His only complaint against the national group is its lack of organization. "Even though they're three and a half years old, they don't have a constitution and bylaws," he says. "Any group, even down to the garden club, has that."

Lee Beane likes her nachos without jalapeños, her Coke with a splash of water, and her immigrants assimilated. "I don't want you to be an economic citizen," she says, enjoying a postprandial smoke at a Chili's in Las Colinas, a suburb of Dallas. "I want you to want to be an American, to assimilate."

Border patrol agent Arturo Sandoval scans the brush, 
trying to determine what tripped an underground 
Daniel Kramer
Border patrol agent Arturo Sandoval scans the brush, trying to determine what tripped an underground sensor.
After being spotted, this migrant tried to make it back 
across the river, only to run out of breath.
Daniel Kramer
After being spotted, this migrant tried to make it back across the river, only to run out of breath.

This 65-year-old, self-described "computer granny" is one of the founders of the Texas Minutemen LLC, the Arlington group that boasts a letter of support from Jim Gilchrist and plans to monitor the Texas-Mexico border in October. Beane was in Arizona in April and rejects the notion that there are racist undertones in her organization. "I don't know if you're aware of the DNA studies that have gone on in the last 15 years," she says, leaning forward. "I guarantee you, if you take blood from, say, 50 people, you'd be amazed who you're related to." She says the Texas Minutemen LLC has been queried by white supremacist groups, but she's turned them away.

"If they want to do something besides drinking beer and chanting, they should've been doing it already," quips cofounder Shannon McGauley, in the booth beside Beane. (Both of them agreed to be interviewed on the condition that they wouldn't be photographed; they prefer to operate in relative anonymity, although photos of McGauley can be found pretty easily on the Web.)

The two met in a way that would've been perfect for a love story, jokes Beane, if she weren't 24 years older than he is. McGauley, a former private investigator, was also in Arizona in April; organizers asked him to leave when they determined he wasn't keen on following the rules. When Beane left Arizona, she says, Gilchrist asked her to monitor McGauley to make sure he wasn't slandering the Minuteman name. They got to talking and formed a pretty strong relationship, not to mention a Minuteman chapter.

Like many Americans, Beane and McGauley think their country is being overrun by undocumented migrants. "We are, more than anything else, pro-law," says Beane. "We are not against legal immigrants. We've got them in our group… [But] when you come in illegal, you hide, you do other things illegal." In this post-9/11 world, Beane and McGauley harbor fears about what kind of people are entering the country.

They also object to the Fourteenth Amendment, which grants citizenship to anyone born on American soil, irrespective of whether the parents are documented. "They've actually had women run across the Nuevo Laredo bridge with the baby hanging out," says McGauley, "so it's born in the U.S." Calling for the repeal of a constitutional amendment might seem like an extreme notion, but two weeks ago House Majority Leader Tom DeLay did the same thing at a press conference -- and somebody out there keeps voting for him.

When it comes to civil rights, Beane and McGauley think more are being afforded to undocumented immigrants than to American citizens. Beane has a beef with the way hospital personnel aren't allowed to ask the immigration status of patients, but she's required to give her name, address, social security number and insurance information the moment she walks through the automatic doors. She wants to know how asking for such information isn't a violation of her civil rights.

Anti-illegal immigrant sentiments and the organizations supporting them are nothing new in U.S. history. The Minuteman movement is just the latest model -- although it's already started splintering all over the place.

Beane and McGauley's group is not affiliated with the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. The two object to the Corps charging $50 for federal background checks; they see the fee as a cash cow for Simcox.

"They've chosen to stay independent," Simcox said last month at the Houston meeting. "That's what we're concerned with, these groups popping up and saying they're Minutemen. And then if they go out and do something wrong, it's going to change all of us."

"McGauley is a young man," chimed in Parmley, at that time still president of his chapter. "He's out to more or less kind of prove himself. That's the way young people are, so we prefer to have more mature people who understand the reasons for discipline."

"They're not doing background checks," added Simcox. "They're taking a much more aggressive approach and I'm concerned about that."

McGauley says Simcox didn't treat his volunteers with respect in Arizona, another reason he decided to form his own group. And he says the Texas Minuteman LLC will do federal background checks, paid for out of his own pocket. He admits, however, that he's let his access to the database expire and must wait to regain clearance before he can start vetting others.

Come October, his group will head for the border, primarily between Laredo and El Paso, setting up quasi-military outposts on land owned by ranchers who've given them permission to patrol. Their goal, they claim, is to observe and report, and generate a bunch of buzz for their cause.

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