Anti-illegal immigration conference opens
Associated Press
May. 29, 2005
Christina Almeida
LAS VEGAS - Several anti-illegal immigration groups convened Saturday in Las Vegas to discuss efforts to tighten U.S. borders and to praise recent action by the Minuteman Project, as a large group of Hispanic protesters denounced the conference as racist.

The summit was hosted by the Las Vegas-based Wake Up America Foundation, whose motto is "It's your country, take it back." Between 500 and 1,000 people were expected to attend the two-day meeting held at the Cashman Center in downtown Las Vegas.

Speakers from various groups addressed the crowd regarding problems with illegal immigration.

"It's not just about poor immigrants coming to work," said Chris Simcox, president of Minuteman Civil Defense and a co-organizer of the recent Minuteman Project in Arizona. "It's about the world knowledge that our government can't stop drug dealers. It doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence that they can stop resourceful terrorists."

Simcox told the crowd that his group of 15,000 members is committed to securing the nation's borders and will continue to plan actions in California and in states along the Canadian border until the government begins military patrols.

"We want the border secured. Nothing less will be accepted," Simcox said. "There is no compromise."

Barbara Coe with the California Coalition for Immigration Reform called the border situation a "very real threat to our sovereignty and our lives."

She blamed President Bush for refusing "to protect us from these foreign invaders."

Outside, about 200 Hispanic protesters chanted, "Racists go home!" and waved American and Mexican flags. A small child carried a sign that read, "Racism is a deadly plague."

Robert Gallegos, president of a Hispanic political action group called RAZ/Pac, drove from Salt Lake City to participate in the protest. He said claims on the Web site of Wake Up America Foundation that undocumented immigrants are to blame for rising unemployment, hospital closures and troubles in the public school system are disingenuous.

"All that is, is a cover for racism," he said. "All Americans need to stand up and make sure this racism stops here."

Simcox dismissed claims his group was racist, saying the border issue is one of national security and public safety and those caught at the border represent dozens of nationalities.

"I don't care what color your skin is, what language you speak or where you're from, if you are breaking into my country illegally, that's unacceptable," Simcox said.

He defended his philosophy as pro-immigrant, mentioning recent deaths along the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona.

"There is no reason human beings, regardless of where they come from, should die horrible deaths," Simcox said.

The conference was scheduled to conclude today with speeches by Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist and Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, a leading congressional voice against illegal immigration.