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Minutemen start building fence on U.S.-Mexico border

Associated Press Writer

PALOMINAS, Arizona- Scores of volunteers gathered at a remote ranch to help a civilian border-patrol group start building a short security fence in hopes of reducing illegal immigration from Mexico.

The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps plans to install a combination of barbed wire, razor wire, and in some spots, steel rail barriers along the 10-mile (16-kilometer) stretch of private land in southeastern Arizona. The effort began Saturday.

They hope it prompts the federal government to do the same along the entire Arizona border.

President George W. Bush has pledged to deploy as many as 6,000 National Guard troops to strengthen enforcement at the border. The guardsmen would fill in on some behind-the-lines Border Patrol jobs while that agency's force is expanded.

But the Minutemen have said it's not enough. The group's founder, Chris Simcox, said they want a secure fence and they're starting at the site where his first patrols began in November 2002.

Rancher John Ladd and his son, Jack, were hopeful the effort would limit the illegal immigrants and drug runners who have cut the small fence along the property or just driven over it to cross into the U.S.

"We've been fighting this thing for 10 years with the fence, and nobody will do anything," Jack Ladd said.

Most of the day was dedicated to speeches from politicians and Minutemen leaders and celebrating large donations the Minutemen group has been receiving.

Minuteman spokeswoman Connie Hair said it would take up to three weeks to build the estimated $100,000 (euro78,000) fence. So far, the group has raised $380,000 (euro297,000) for more border fences, she said.

Timothy Schwartz of Glendale, Arizona, who was among at least 200 volunteers gathered, said he wants to see a fence along the border from California to Texas.

"We're not going to stop," Schwartz said. "We're going to stay here with a group and keep building."

Quetzal Doty of Sun Lakes, Arizona, a retired U.S. diplomatic consular officer, brought his wife, Sandy, to the event.

He said he's convinced the Minutemen and most Americans aren't anti-immigrant.

"They're just anti-illegal," said Doty. "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."

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