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Updated Jul 16, 2014 - 6:57 am

Minutemen coming out of retirement after immigration surge

Chuck Townsend, of Green Valley, Ariz., patrols the southwestern desert near Sasabe, Ariz. Wednesday, April 12, 2006. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX -- It was a decade ago a controversial group -- that has since fallen out of the spotlight -- set lawn chairs in the desert to keep an eye on the border between the United States and Mexico.

Now the Minuteman Project is returning to the border after a surge in illegal immigrants from Central America entering the U.S., touching off a humanitarian and political firestorm.

Group founder and president Jim Gilchrist said he will spend the next 10 months recruiting volunteers for Operation Normandy, which will be a monthlong border effort to keep illegal immigrants from making their way into the United States from Mexico.

"We are angry," he said. "This lack of control of our borders and the lack of enforcing immigration laws is the source of a national anger and we have to bring national awareness to it. I would expect at least 35,00 participants and that doesn't include militias that will jump in."

Gilchrist said the federal government struggles to secure the border and now the undocumented immigrants pouring into Texas have sparked an outrage which will bring volunteers from across the nation on their own dime and time.

"It's time for a revolution but an ideological revolution to bring us back to common sense," he said. "We are essentially immobilized to do anything in this country anymore either because of political paralysis or partisan politics and it's frustrating to us as voters and as people who fought the wars in this country and pay the taxes."

Some of the members will be armed, as they were during previous border watch events between 2005 and 2010. Gilchrist said there's one rule: Stay within the law.

"If people want to carry firearms, as long as it's legal, I have no problem with it. I have no authority over what they do or say."

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.

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