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His only complaint against the national group is its lack of organization. "Even though they're three and a half years old, they don't have a constitution and bylaws," he says. "Any group, even down to the garden club, has that."
This 65-year-old, self-described "computer granny" is one of the founders of the Texas Minutemen LLC, the Arlington group that boasts a letter of support from Jim Gilchrist and plans to monitor the Texas-Mexico border in October. Beane was in Arizona in April and rejects the notion that there are racist undertones in her organization. "I don't know if you're aware of the DNA studies that have gone on in the last 15 years," she says, leaning forward. "I guarantee you, if you take blood from, say, 50 people, you'd be amazed who you're related to." She says the Texas Minutemen LLC has been queried by white supremacist groups, but she's turned them away.
"If they want to do something besides drinking beer and chanting, they should've been doing it already," quips cofounder Shannon McGauley, in the booth beside Beane.
The two met in a way that would've been perfect for a love story, jokes Beane, if she weren't 24 years older than he is. McGauley, a former private investigator, was also in Arizona in April; organizers asked him to leave when they determined he wasn't keen on following the rules. When Beane left Arizona, she says, Gilchrist asked her to monitor McGauley to make sure he wasn't slandering the Minuteman name. They got to talking and formed a strong relationship, not to mention a Minuteman chapter.
Like many Americans, Beane and McGauley think their country is being overrun by undocumented immigrants. "We are, more than anything else, pro-law," Beane says. "We are not against legal immigrants. We've got them in our group...[But] when you come in illegal, you hide, you do other things illegal." In this post-9/11 world, Beane and McGauley harbor fears about what kind of people are entering the country.
They also object to the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to anyone born on American soil, irrespective of whether the parents are documented. "They've actually had women run across the Nuevo Laredo bridge with the baby hanging out," McGauley claims, "so it's born in the U.S." Calling for the repeal of a constitutional amendment might seem like an extreme notion, but two weeks ago House Majority Leader Tom DeLay did the same thing at a news conference.
When it comes to civil rights, Beane and McGauley think more are being afforded to undocumented immigrants than to American citizens. Beane dislikes the fact that hospital personnel aren't allowed to ask the immigration status of patients, but she's required to give her name, address, Social Security number and insurance information. She wants to know how asking for such information isn't a violation of her civil rights.
Anti-illegal immigrant sentiments and the organizations supporting them are nothing new in U.S. history. The Minutemen movement is just the latest model, although it's already splintering.
Beane and McGauley's group is not affiliated with the national Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. The two object to the Corps charging $50 for federal background checks; they see the fee as a cash cow for Simcox.
"They've chosen to stay independent," Simcox said last month at the Houston meeting. "That's what we're concerned with, these groups popping up and saying they're Minutemen. And then if they go out and do something wrong, it's going to change all of us."
"McGauley is a young man," chimed in Parmley, at that time still president of his chapter. "He's out to more or less kind of prove himself. That's the way young people are, so we prefer to have more mature people who understand the reasons for discipline."
"They're not doing background checks," added Simcox. "They're taking a much more aggressive approach, and I'm concerned about that."
McGauley says Simcox didn't treat his volunteers with respect in Arizona, another reason he decided to form his own group. And he says the Texas Minutemen LLC will do federal background checks, paid for out of his own pocket. He admits, however, that he's let his access to the database expire and must wait to regain clearance before he can start vetting others.
Come October, his group will head for the border, primarily between Laredo and El Paso, setting up quasi-military outposts on land owned by ranchers who give them permission to patrol. Their goal, they claim, is to observe and report, and generate a bunch of buzz for their cause.
Sal Zamora, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says his agency's ultimate concern is the safety of anyone who chooses to hang out near the Rio Grande. "The border is a very dangerous area," he says. "Not too long ago, there were two [U.S. border patrol agents] who in essence engaged in gunfire with a group of what we presume to be illegal aliens who were trafficking in drugs. There was an extensive exchange of gunfire in broad daylight...Incidents like that could occur at any given time, at any given place along the border."