There's usually a handful of American Anglos and African-Americans at the Garland center, and many of them believe the immigrants get preferential treatment for jobs. "They give out tickets, call numbers, but it doesn't mean shit," a white man in a flannel shirt said, complaining that contractors often bypass him for Latino laborers. "It don't matter if you have a number 5 or a number 55, they're biased."
Of the dozen or so American-born day laborers I talked to, most were convicted felons. Given their criminal records, they have a hard time finding steady jobs, and most declined to give their names. A black 20-something man waiting for a warehouse job at the RaceTrac in Arlington told me he'd recently been released from state prison in California. When a black couple driving a van pulled into the gas station and several of the Mexican workers ran up to the car, he frowned. "Look, here's black folks, they should be looking out for their own, but they take them because they can pay them less," he said. The couple appeared to be taking whoever got there first, but the man shook his head. "I'm not going to be runnin' up to no car," he said sullenly.
To Johnika Edwards, an Anglo plumber from Alabama who helped Jimenez work the grill during the barbecue, such talk is almost as ludicrous as the Minutemen. "I don't see them no different from the KKK," she said. "They discriminate against illegal immigrants, and I don't think it's right. I hate to hate against my own kind, but I don't see them out here, do you? There are three of us [Anglo workers]."
Sitting in his Cadillac across the street from the RaceTrac that November morning, Kirby acknowledged the risks illegal immigrants take to come to the United States and how difficult it is to survive once they're here. Like many Minutemen, he blames greedy businesses eager to exploit a steady stream of cheap labor.
"I feel sorry for those guys over there," he said. "I wish they had jobs—can you imagine standing there in the cold, waiting for someone to give you a job digging ditches with Christmas coming?"
He insists his goal is to target contractors, not workers, even though the obvious result of deterring hiring at labor centers means less work for the guys waiting at the curb. "Take job opportunities away, and they'll go home," he said, arguing that in some small way, his efforts could perhaps prevent people from leaving their native country in the first place. After all, he's been to the border, he's seen the looks of fear and exhaustion, the desperation of immigrants who've trekked for days through the desert with little food or water.
"I know a rancher who found two bodies on his property," he said, gazing straight into the sun toward the few workers still gathered on the curb. "One was a female skeleton. That family never knew what happened to her. Her ankle was broken. She was probably left behind by the group because she couldn't keep up." Returning to the subject at hand, he added, "If there were no reason to come here, there would be no reason for coyotes to take advantage of these poor people."
Kirby glanced at his watch. It was past 9:30 a.m., time to go.
"We've made a call—15 minutes to all units to report," he said. "We're gonna wrap it up. We've done all we can do."