American Border Patrol Minutemen Blog When Tennessee Williams wrote "One thing you can grow on a big place, more important than cotton, is tolerance", you know he was not born in Arizona. I spent today with Richard Humphries. He is a died-in-the-wool Minuteman.
A 71-year old, ex-undercover drug enforcement officer, he stands at 6'2", wears a Stetson and carries a gun. He hates President Bush with a passion, and has a sticker on his rear bumper that declares: "The King of England didn't like the Minutemen Project either". He lives near the improbably-named town of Tombstone and, at his ripe age, has a 16 and 11 year old daughter at home. He is far more of Arizona than Tennessee Williams.
We spent the day driving up and down the border. Across the thin barbed wire that divides the US from Mexico, we saw trucks filled with migrants being driven into the desert, and a group of 12 young men and women, shy of the camera, loitering near the border - waiting for night to come to mask their breach of the border line.
Richard looked at them all with a mixture of frustration and sympathy. He does not blame them for wanting a better life in his land of the Star Spangled Banner. He just wishes they wouldn't. He reserves his true ire for Washington, whose politicians - he believes - have betrayed their nation with their implicit open-border policies and their friendships with President Vicente Fox of Mexico.
It seems this way for so many of the Arizonans I have met. It is not Mexicans they dislike. It is the politicians, who they believe ignore them in their dusty-border towns, who they really despise. I guess we all hate to be forgotten.
Later in the day, over coffee in one of the dreary fast-food stores that dot this landscape, Richard told me a story. Once, driving down from his remote home, he came across a truck full of Mexicans. He parked his car across a cattle-grid, preventing them from passing, and - showing his gun for them to see - went over to the driver.
'Give me your keys' he said, and the driver complied. In the back were a dozen migrants, silent and cowed. Richard called the Border Guards. Soon the Mexicans were being processed to be sent back South. But as Richard was standing there, waiting for the guards to finish their work, he spotted two girls amongst the migrants.
They were young - 18 or 19 - and in their arms they held silent babies. One of them looked at him, tears in her eyes, and asked: "Why, Senor? Why?" At that point Richard looked up at me from his coffee,. His eyes were moist either from his age or something far deeper, and he said to me: "And what had I done? How could I do that to a young woman and her child? How?"