PALOMINAS, Arizona – Minuteman border watch volunteers began putting up new fencing Saturday on a cattle ranch along the southeastern Arizona border with Mexico, intent on building impediments to a flood of illegal immigration until the federal government takes up the task.
Ranchers Jack and John Ladd were hopeful, though hardly confident, that the fencing will spell some relief on their father-and-son spread from the illegal immigrants, drug runners and cattle meandering across from Mexico.
The Ladds' ranch stretches across more than 10 miles (16 kilometers) of the border with Mexico and they have struggled for years with those cut their fence — or just drive over it — to cross their land and enter the United States.
"We've been fighting this thing for 10 years with the fence, and nobody will do anything," said son Jack Ladd.
Chris Simcox, founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, said the fencing his group is building is at the exact site where his first patrols began in November 2002. He said he believes many people are waiting to join his group's effort until they see what the government will do.
"The fear that the American people have of the American government still is disappointing and alarming," Simcox said. "Now the landowners are more fearful of what the federal government's response is going to be to them protecting their property than they are of the drug cartels."
The Minuteman group plans to install fencing, including a combination of barbed wire, razor wire and in some spots steel rail barriers, along the bulk of the Ladds' property in the coming weeks. They hope it prompts the federal government to do the same along the entire Arizona border.
The contractor volunteering his time to help install the fence says the 10 mile (16 kilometers) stretch is just a start.
"We're not going to stop. We're going to stay here with a group and keep building," said Timothy Schwartz of Glendale, Arizona. He said the plan is to build fencing along the border from California all the way to Texas.
At least 200 volunteers gathered Saturday morning on the Ladds' ranch as they marked the kickoff of their fence-building effort. Most of the morning was dedicated to speeches from politicians and Minutemen leaders and celebrating large donations the Minutemen group has been receiving.
Among the Minuteman volunteers who made their way to this remote ranch Saturday was Quetzal Doty of Sun Lakes, Arizona, a retired U.S. diplomatic consular officer.
Doty said he's convinced the Minutemen and most Americans aren't anti-immigrant.
"They're just anti-illegal," said Doty, who came with his wife, Sandy. "The Minutemen walk the extra mile to avoid being anti-immigrant and that's what we like about the organization and what got us interested."
Doty said he believes the Minutemen's vow to build fences if President George W. Bush doesn't start doing so has had an impact, and he hopes the House holds to its border security-first stance in upcoming negotiations with the Senate on an immigration reform package.