Jewish World Review July 28, 2006/ 3 Menachem-Av,
Keeping the trust is the first order
The first thing a Minuteman has to learn is to keep his powder dry. The bigger the powder magazine, the bigger the risk of getting it all wet.
This is the lesson that Chris Simcox, the president of the volunteers on the border, who have almost single-handedly aroused the nation's conscience about the tide of illegal immigration, seems to have missed in basic training.
The "powder" is the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Americans have contributed to the Minutemen, who have been exceedingly helpful to the U.S. Border Patrol. The careful, rigorous reporting of Jerry Seper in The Washington Times reveals that the Minutemen management has not made its records of fundraising and finances public in more than a year, raising the hackles and suspicions of several top Simcox aides. Some of them have resigned, protesting the loose management of the money.
If money is the mother's milk of politics, money is the meat and potatoes for the Minutemen, who have succeeded in doing something about the hell on the border. A measure of their success is how the Bush administration is now working hard to appear to be taking border chaos seriously. Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, marched up Capitol Hill yesterday to tell the House Appropriations Committee that the Border Patrol no longer releases apprehended illegals after stopping them at the border. This policy, called "catch-and-release," was as goofy as it sounds. "That means we no longer release them into the general population, but we hold them until we send them back."
Catching the illegal border crossers only to release them made sense to no one but a bureaucrat; it certainly makes no sense to the Border Patrol, which can only enforce policy made by the bureaucrats. So it's a measure of "progress" that the bureaucrats say they no longer insist on goofiness.
But tiny increments are meaningless, and smack of an attempt to hoodwink the House into thinking that it can safely turn to the amnesty provisions of immigration reform that the administration and the Senate doggedly refuse to call amnesty. Mr. Chertoff told the House committee yesterday that the government is finally serious about prosecuting employers who exploit easily abused illegal alien labor. "We are finally bringing a big stick to the issue of interior enforcement," he said.
The public is likely to be even more skeptical than Congress, which has been getting an earful from its constituency in the immigration hearings held in various cities across the country. This is the public skepticism that has made such heroes of the Minutemen that Americans have dug into their pockets for $1.6 million so far. Never have Americans paid such voluntary taxes so cheerfully, and taxes are clearly what the contributions are, not necessary if the government had been doing its job over the past decade.
All the more reason that Chris Simcox and his lieutenants must account for the money and explain what the Declaration Alliance, the grandly named political public-relations firm in Herndon, has done with the money it has collected and disbursed in the name of the Minutemen. The Declaration Alliance is the creation of Alan Keyes, the smooth-talking conservative activist and sometime pol, and is meant to provide mass mailings, public relations and "a fully accredited and independent audit." So far no one in the Minutemen management has said how much has been paid to the Declaration Alliance, and what the Minutemen got for the money.
There may ample explanation once the explanation is forthcoming, but Mr. Simcox and Mr. Keyes surely understand that perception is reality, and trust once abused is trust destroyed. The landscape is littered with the corpses of causes abused, sometimes by the well meaning (and sometimes by others).
Immigration is the hot-button issue of the fall congressional campaigns, as the members of Congress are learning. Americans are fed up with delay and dilly-dally, explanations and excuses that make no sense, and the Minutemen are the children of this widespread public frustration. All the more reason for the leadership of the Minutemen to get their finances in order. If they don't, they'll get a taste of their own powder.
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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
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