FALFURRIAS, Texas -- Up to 200 border-monitoring volunteers were expected in South Texas this weekend as part of a national patrol, the state director of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps said Friday.
They were to meet at the ranch of group director Michael Vickers, who also hosted the state's October meeting. Vickers said pro-immigrant rallies around the country this week have increased interest among the group's supporters in keeping illegal immigrants out. Many of the demonstrators in Texas were carrying Mexican flags.
"We've got people rolling in here right now," he said. "Seeing those foreign flags flying on our soil has enraged a lot of people, and now they're coming to realize we're losing our country."
The national campaign was to kick off Saturday with a rally in Puma County, Arizona. Minuteman leader Chris Simcox said approximately 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) of the Mexican and Canadian borders would be patrolled.
The Minutemen drew international attention last year when they trained binoculars along the Arizona border in hopes of showing that more personnel on the border could stop illegal immigration from Mexico.
The volunteers say they are additional eyes and ears for the U.S. Border Patrol. They do not make arrests or detain immigrants; they just report sightings.
Maria Valencia, spokeswoman for the U.S. Border Patrol in Washington, said the agency welcomes the assistance of concerned citizens, which is why toll-free telephone numbers are available. But she cautioned that the border was growing more violent.
"Securing the border is a dangerous task meant for highly trained law enforcement agents," she said.
Vickers' property is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of the border, part of a spread of ranches that get traffic from migrants trying to skirt a Border Patrol checkpoint. He said the migrants trample his land, breaking cattle fences and leaving trash behind, and his wife was frightened when she encountered a group of illegal immigrants while alone.
Vickers said about 500 people volunteered in October, setting up tents or trailers and patrolling 27 ranches. He said volunteers reported sightings of 802 immigrants and that more thanr 20 percent of them were caught by the Border Patrol. He said volunteers also rescued dozens of women and children.
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Minutemen operations have not been carried out directly on the Texas-Mexico border because private ranch owners in the overwhelmingly Mexican-American region have not invited them. Several Texas communities issued resolutions against their presence, as did 11 Democrats in the state Legislature.