The Minuteman Project is a volunteer group of more than 1,000 American civilians, who work in shifts at the U.S.-Mexico border, where they report any illegal crossing activity they see to the U.S. Border patrol. The group recently expanded its reach to also cover the U.S.-Canada border. Though some supporters, including California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, have praised the project, others are deeply skeptical of the organization, which is reputed to have ties with white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.
The Minuteman Project was founded in April 2005 by Jim Gilchrist, a former U.S. Marine. In a 2005 election, Gilchrist ran for Congressman in California on an independent party ticket; though he ultimately lost the race, he finished third, receiving 25% of the vote. In 2007, Gilchrist was removed as the head of the project due to allegations of fraud and mismanagement of funds.
Besides patrolling the border for illegal crossers, members of the Minuteman Project have also been involved with protesting the hiring of illegal immigrants as day laborers, threatening to take photographs of employers of illegal aliens and post them on the Internet.
In 2006, students at Columbia University staged a protest against Jim Gilchrist and Marvin Stewart of the Minuteman Project, who had been invited to speak on campus. The protest sparked a major debate on campus over freedom of speech.
Not surprisingly, the project's main base of operations is in California, which is a major point of entry for illegal immigrants from Mexico. About 32 percent of America's illegal immigrant population is in California. Illegal aliens, mostly from Mexico, make up about six percent of the state's population. However, because they cannot legally obtain work in the United States, they often take jobs far below minimum wage, for only a few dollars a day.
The Minuteman Project has vowed to put an end to migrant workers entering the United States, and has commanded President George W. Bush to build a fence stretching along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, which would cost $55 million. Since the President has not responded, members of the Minuteman Project have vowed to build the fence themselves.