Minuteman Project to Launch U.S. Caravan

Times Staff Writer

Seeking to counter mass demonstrations by immigrant rights groups, organizers of the Minuteman Project plan to launch a nationwide caravan in Los Angeles today that will focus, in large part, on the jobs they contend are lost to illegal immigrants.

In particular, the group hopes to highlight the concern over job losses in the African American community.

“They are the most harmed by illegal immigration, and it’s time that we focused our efforts in our inner cities,” said Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, who plans to kick off the nine-day caravan to Washington, D.C., at 8 a.m. in Leimert Park.


“Over 40% of black teenagers are unemployed. Overall unemployment in the black community is double that of white Americans,” said Gilchrist, whose group sends private citizens on border patrols to stop illegal immigration. “They are the most harmed by illegal immigration, and it’s time we focused our efforts in our inner cities where help is needed most.”

The tour is scheduled to stop in three cities and several rural communities between Los Angeles and the nation’s capital. There will be a short event to kick off the tour, then rally points in Phoenix; Crawford, Texas; and Washington, D.C. Gilchrist estimated that at least 400 vehicles would join the caravan, with about 100 cars, SUVs and RVs leaving from Los Angeles.

Gilchrist called the tour the Johnny Appleseed Project Caravan.

“We’re going to sow the seeds of information about the illegal alien invasion crisis in the United States,” he said.

Black leaders who plan to attend the kickoff event include Ted Hayes, founder of the Crispus Attucks Brigade, an African American group fighting the influx of undocumented migrants, and the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny. The Minuteman Project counts about 200 African Americans among its 200,000 members, said Tim Bueler, a spokesman for the group.

Although the caravan wouldn’t necessarily stop in black communities, Hayes said, he supported the Minuteman Project because its larger cause honors civil rights won by black Americans.

“They’re waking up the American people to defend that which is ours,” he said. “I use the Minutemen as much as they use me. I sought them out because I recognize that here’s an army of people doing something that protects me.”

But some African American activists consider the Minuteman Project’s focus on black Americans a ploy to gain attention.

“I’m appalled that Ted Hayes and the Minuteman Project would pander to African American fears,” said Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic Hope.

Ali plans to gather other black activists today to protest the caravan.

“If there was not one undocumented immigrant in this country, blacks would still be unemployed due to factors of discrimination, lack of job training, lack of education and other social factors such as alcohol and drug use and gang violence,” he said. “It has nothing to do with undocumented immigrants.”

Alvaro Huerta of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles called the caravan an attempt to grab media attention but welcomed the debate over immigration.

“The great thing is that we’re having this immigration debate, so there has to be all sides to it,” he said.