Column: American Revelation

By David Solana

The citizen hunt for illegal immigrants starts tomorrow. A group called the Minuteman Project is organizing the effort – a reference to the American Revolutionary War fighters that suggests this campaign is of equal importance in the defense of American liberty.

The group has realized a sad but important aspect of life in a democracy – things often don’t get done by the government. What’s more is they have the gusto to get out there and do it themselves. This attitude is what gets stuff done. When working within the realm of the law, it’s the best way people with money can get what they want without having to win elections and waste their time convincing their fellow citizens they are right.

Unfortunately, this attitude is often coupled with the reality that most people won’t side with such activists. It’s also not often done within the law. The Minuteman Project’s goals are within the bounds of the law: they simply intend to use aircraft, binoculars and other search methods to report illegal crossings to the U.S. Border Patrol. Whether they hold to simply reporting remains to be seen.

According to the Minuteman Project’s Web site, there are currently 1,022 volunteers – 21 of whom hail from Illinois. The group says 40 percent of their volunteers are minorities or women and range in age from four to 86. Four volunteers are wheelchair-bound. It’s hard to tell just what the 4-year-old is going to be doing, but the rest of the demographic facts they give are to counter the sundry accusations of racism and bigotry that are inevitable with a project whose target is largely of one ethnic background. The group’s Web site disdains these accusations because “the topic of illegal immigration is not about race, it’s about breaking the law … it does not matter whether the illegal alien is green, blue or purple.” Apparently the group also intends to keep out extraterrestrial illegal aliens, too.

Whether accusations of racism are valid, the Minuteman Project has been declared both legal and bothersome by the government. The Minutemen accuse the government of sleeping on the job and handing America to law-breakers. The government, on the other hand, contends the Minutemen are going to get in the way and are likely to increase the risk of unnecessary violence toward illegal immigrants.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

On the other hand, there is Humane Borders. This faith-based group puts water stations in the desert with the hope of preventing some of the many deaths that occur during border crossings. The group’s strategy to solve the border crisis is to push for time-limited legal work permits.

The difference between these two groups’ philosophies reflects a difference in understanding. Illegal aliens don’t take good, high-paying jobs from Americans. They often end up in jobs with low pay and no benefits, which is a driving force behind some small businesses. The economic ramifications of shipping out many workers en masse are obvious. It makes no sense for the government to rid the country of these workers.

The difference in these two approaches is compassion. It’s a question of people’s willingness to recognize the humanity of every person and just how much they are willing to risk for the hope of attaining a better life. That’s where compromise steps in and works powerfully to the advantage of Humane Borders. They will probably do a better job of curbing the numbers of illegal immigrants if they can flesh out a temporary work plan and get it enacted as law.

The Minutemen are only on the watch during April. Whether they successfully prevent illegal immigrants from taking all those jobs I don’t want away from me, they won’t curb the tide of illegal immigrants in the long run. But at least they are making a statement – unintentionally on behalf of all Americans – abundantly clear to some of the few people in the world who still like America: We don’t like you.