18 migrants held in first sighting by border-project volunteers

The month-long Minuteman effort, which officially starts today in Arizona, has stirred fears of violent vigilantism.

Phoenix - Volunteers for an effort to patrol the border with Mexico reported their first sighting of suspected illegal immigrants, resulting in 18 arrests, authorities said Sunday.

Participants in the Minuteman Project spotted the migrants Saturday near Naco as the volunteers were familiarizing themselves with the border area. When agents arrived, they apprehended 18 people, Border Patrol spokesman Andy Adame said.

"You observe them, report them and get out of the way," said Mike McGarry, a spokesman for the project, which officially begins today and is to continue for a month.

The volunteers reported another suspected illegal immigrant after he wandered onto the campus of a Bible college near Palominas, where about 100 Minuteman participants were staying.

The man walked in and said he needed food and water. Volunteers helped him and notified federal agents, who picked him up, McGarry said.

The man was weary from traveling but did not need medical attention, Adame said.

"It's not uncommon to have aliens that have had enough," Adame said. "They'll walk up to someone's house and ask them to call us. They're waiting on the porch when we arrive."

Minuteman volunteers plan to fan out across 23 miles of the San Pedro Valley to watch the border and report any activity to federal agents. It's an exercise some law enforcement authorities and others fear could lead to vigilante violence.

McGarry said about 200 people would be in today's patrols.

Law enforcement officials said the volunteers were keeping the peace, despite concerns they might become confrontational with immigrants. Many volunteers were recruited over the Internet, and some plan to be armed.

The Arizona-Mexico border is considered the most vulnerable stretch of the United States' 2,000-mile southern border. Of the 1.1 million illegal immigrants caught by the Border Patrol last year, 51 percent entered at the Arizona border.

By Beth Defalco The Associated Press Monday, April 04, 2005

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