Monday, June 20, 2005
ACLU Suspends Southern Chapter Over Minuteman Issue
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico suspended its Las Cruces chapter Monday after learning that a member of the group's board was heading the formation of a Minuteman-style organization in New Mexico.
Gary Mitchell, a Ruidoso attorney and president of the ACLU board of directors, said the suspension of the southern chapter was a technical move to make sure the leader of the New Mexico Minutemen a spinoff of the controversial civilian border patrol group the Minuteman Project no longer had authority to act or speak on behalf of the ACLU.
"We will not tolerate racism and vigilantism in the leadership structure of our organization,'' Mitchell said. "They are repugnant to the principles of civil liberties and the mission of the ACLU.''
Clifford Alford is the leader of the New Mexico Minutemen. The phone went unanswered Monday evening at his home in Organ.
Alford has said he's not a hateful vigilante and that he would like to see immigration policy reformed. He has said that if the federal government allowed more immigrant workers to enter the country legally, many problems on the border would be solved.
Alford scouted the New Mexico-Mexico border two weeks ago, looking for sites to station his 42 volunteers to detect illegal immigrants sneaking into the country. His group plans to offer food, water and medical aid but still report the illegal immigrants to the U.S. Border Patrol.
ACLU officials have said they will work to stop Alford's group and the Minuteman Project in New Mexico from taking the law into their own hands.
The southern ACLU chapter has agreed to comply with bylaws, policies and rules of the national ACLU and the New Mexico affiliate, and Mitchell said it's likely the group will be up and running again in a short time.
"Las Cruces has a large number of passionate, committed civil libertarians,'' he said. "The ACLU intends to work with them to protect all people's civil liberties, regardless of their race, national origin or immigration status.''