A group that patrols along the nation's border with Mexico and Canada watching out for illegal immigrant crossings is now extending its operations to New Hampshire.
The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps wants to begin patrolling the border between New Hampshire and Quebec starting this weekend, but it needs more volunteers and money.
Marty Hewson, of Pittsburg, is a volunteer and was a border patrolman who worked in Texas and Vermont. When he was contacted by the group , he immediately agreed to help. "I'm used to line watching," he said. "I can't say as we see very many people, but we're in a spot where there is a possibility. It's just like my old duty when I was in the Border Patrol."
Ron Oplinus, director of the state chapter, said the Minutemen do not welcome vigilantes or racists, although some members carry guns, which they are instructed to keep holstered. Participants are instructed to bring hiking-type equipment: binoculars, flashlights, cameras, lawn chairs, comfy and warm clothing, rain gear and food.
The New Hampshire chapter was established last year and currently has 36 members who have patrolled the Canadian border to "establish an operating post". Some of their members were trained and have patrolled with chapters in the Southwest.
If members see anything suspicious, they are supposed to report it to the Border Patrol. "There are several thousand people coming across the New England border with Vermont, New York, New Hampshire and Maine," he said. "One of the neighbors near where we are says she sees the Border Patrol coming by any time of the day or night and she sees the search lights. There are a lot of sensors embedded in the ground, so they know when there is a lot of activity."
The national Minutemen organization has named April and October as month-long border patrol events, however, the New Hampshire group doesn't have the resources to patrol 24/7 so they only operate on the weekends. Last weekend's snow, rain and mud made the conditions too difficult for them to reach their staging area.
Oplinus said the group is trying to combat a stereotype that they are gun-toting racists. They are just ordinary citizens concerned that the government is not doing enough to combat illegal immigration, he said.
"People nationally are very concerned about the illegal immigration problem, or invasion, as I call it -- and that's indeed what is happening: We are being invaded by people from throughout the world," he said. "It's all ethnicities, it's all countries. The southern border has apprehended people from all countries. It's not just poor Mexicans coming in to do the work that we choose not to do -- it's not that at all."