Few minutes with Minuteklan is plenty of time for GOP group
Few minutes with Minutemen is plenty of time for GOP group
In My Opinion
BRYAN - The Texas Minutemen brought their borderline paranoia to the heart of Aggieland this week.
A Republican club invited the Wise County-based Minutemen to tell about their escapades guarding the Rio Grande. But what they heard was too loony even for Aggies.
When the Minutemen's quirky leader started rambling about a secret plan to "merge Canada and Mexico with the United States," the good Republicans in the home of the George Bush Presidential Library started squirming in their chairs behind half-eaten barbecue plates.
When a Minutewoman from Dallas started complaining that ranchers can shoot diseased cattle at the border but not humans, and blamed permissive immigration on the "greedy business people" of America, their Republican host finally had enough and stood to cut off questions.
"Thank you," said Dan Garcia, 29, an Iraq war veteran and now a Texas A&M University student. Almost apologetically, he told the Brazos County Young Republicans, "Our goal was just to set up a forum where we could hear different opinions."
Later, he said the discussion "got out of hand a little too quickly."
"I don't think disease should be part of the issue," said Garcia, a Brownsville native and the son of immigrants from Mexico who earned doctorates. "Some of the things they said, I totally disagree with. As Republicans, we're not xenophobes. We just want to know who's coming into the country."
It was his idea to invite a Minuteman to draw more people to a meeting when some Young Republicans have gone home for the summer. It worked: Instead of five or six Republicans, the meeting drew 25 guests to C & J Barbeque.
Garcia said he looked up Minutemen on the Web and found the Wise County group.
Shannon McGauley, 42, a private investigator from Boyd, leads one of two factions of Minutemen volunteers in Texas. His faction reports to a California man who is affiliated with a Bible-preaching fringe political party and who openly opposes allowing any other "cultures" or languages in America besides his own.
That part bothered Garcia before the meeting.
"What makes America great is that we pull the best from all cultures," he said in an interview. "As a Republican, I value hard work and personal integrity. People bring those values to the U.S. from all cultures."
McGauley agreed to make the drive to Bryan for gas money, Garcia said.
McGauley and other Minutemen have eagerly accepted invitations from border-minded Republican clubs lately, using the opportunity to promote their financially struggling volunteer effort and to preach their conspiracy politics. In Bryan, their handouts included something about the Trilateral Commission.
McGauley, a stubby man with a necktie that stops about four inches too soon, called himself a "bail bond enforcement agent." He and a brother bill themselves on the Web as the only known pair of twin bounty hunters.
Before they hunted border crossers, they might have been hunting something else.
In a Yahoo discussion group called "smalltowntexassingles," somebody using his brother's name posted a 2002 ad introducing twin brother private investigators looking to "get to know" singles. They have also advertised a lawn service.
Early last year, after volunteering in a Minuteman Project patrol in Arizona, McGauley registered the name Texas Minutemen.
The other faction is the Falfurrias-based Texas chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, which emphasizes lawful borders more than fear of Hispanic "culture."
For the Bryan audience, McGauley began with a routine report on risks along the border. He described the cat-and-mouse game Minutemen play watching the border, the rumors of Iraqis crossing illegally and the plans for another patrol Sept. 11 along the Rio Grande near Laredo and Del Rio.
The volunteers simply watch for border crossers and alert the Border Patrol, he said. They carry concealed weapons for self-defense, as allowed under state law.
A small group of Hispanic students and adults from Texas A&M University watched from a front table. Hispanic students have been part of the Gig 'Em tradition since at least 1894, when an Aggie from Hidalgo, Mexico, named N. Valdez scored A&M's very first football touchdown.
They bristled when McGauley's co-founder, a retired Dallas software engineer named Sandra Beene, started talking about shooting "varmints" and about how ranchers used to shoot cattle that crossed the border for fear they might have diseases.
"Now, we're bringing all the diseases that we wiped out right back in," she said.
Then, a barber from Bryan spoke up from the crowd to complain about trucks from Mexico using the planned Trans-Texas Corridor toll superhighway.
"Trucks are going to roll all the way into Kansas City from a foreign nation," McGauley said as if free trade is somehow sinister.
He mentioned the secret "plan" to merge North America, which must not be a secret up in Wise County.
Late in the discussion, Beene made this telling comment:
"Once, in this country, we imported a lot of people who were black, and we created a slave class of human beings," she said. "And we're still paying for that, through all the resentment. And black people are still paying for it, too."
Lesson 1: Some of these Minutemen don't want anyone of another color or culture in Texas.
Lesson 2: Republicans need to be careful about welcoming the Minutemen.