Mexico rips Schwarzenegger OK of Minutemen
The Associated Press
April 30, 2005

It says it was 'unfortunate' that he said civilian border militia did 'a terrific job.'

MEXICO CITY - Mexico yesterday condemned the comments of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who praised hundreds of civilian volunteers guarding the Arizona-Mexican border against people crossing illegally.

The Foreign Relations Department, which has said it is investigating the illegal detention of 13 Mexicans allegedly apprehended by members of the Minuteman Project, rejected Schwarzenegger's comments, saying "these types of unfortunate pronouncements are not the way to achieve a better understanding between our country and California."

In a radio interview Thursday, Schwarzenegger said of the volunteers, "I think they've done a terrific job, and look, they've cut down the crossing of illegal immigrants by a huge percentage."

Minuteman volunteers, some of whom are armed, began patrolling April 1 for migrants crossing into Arizona over what is considered the most porous stretch of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

Project organizers claim volunteers are only out to identify illegal crossers to U.S. authorities and call attention to the illegal migration issue. The group has denied allegations of wrongful detentions.

But Mexicans commonly refer to the volunteers as "migrant hunters," and Foreign Relations Department officials have been closely watching the border for Minuteman-related violations.

Last week, Schwarzenegger solicited an angry response from Mexico City by calling for a closed border, comments he later blamed on problems with his English, which is his second language.

The Republican was clearer this time, accusing the federal government of failing to control the borders and of encouraging illicit crossers by providing them with water.

"The whole system is set up to really invite people to come in here illegally, and that has to stop," Schwarzenegger said.

In a statement, the Foreign Relations Department said it was especially surprised by the governor's comments "now that the administration of President Bush has clearly stated its opposition to the vigilante activities on the border."

"These manifestations prejudice historical, economic, social and cultural ties between Mexico and California," the statement said. "Today, our country is the main market for products from that state. In 2004, California exported $17.2 billion worth of merchandise to Mexico."

Schwarzenegger has also criticized Los Angeles Spanish-language television station KRCA-TV for its controversial billboards that identify its market as "Los Angeles, Mexico." He has said that the billboards promote illegal immigration and should be taken down immediately.