By WILLIAM PETROSKI
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a citizens’ action group that opposes illegal immigration, has been recruiting in Iowa and plans an Oct. 14 rally on the Iowa Statehouse grounds.
About 25 people have joined the Minuteman chapter in the Des Moines area, and individuals from several other Iowa towns have signed up as well, said Robert Ussery of Des Moines, an Iowa chapter leader. An organizational meeting was held in Ankeny in August, and more recruiting was conducted at a gun show last month at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
“I have belonged to different conservative groups and I have written letters to Congress for years,” Ussery said. “I just got tired and felt it was time to do something. That is how most of the people in the Minutemen feel.”
The Arizona-based Minuteman organization, which has conducted citizen watch campaigns on the U.S.-Mexican border, aims to expand its membership nationwide, and wants a presence in every major city, Ussery said. The group wants to educate the public about issues surrounding illegal immigration and to change local and state laws to stem the tide of illegal immigrants.
“We are all Americans, and we need to stand up and save the country because there are a lot of problems with illegal aliens,” said Craig Halvorson, a leader of the Iowa Minuteman chapter in western Iowa. These problems range from crimes committed by persons who have entered the U.S. illegally, to illegal receipt of government welfare benefits, organizers said.
Experts have said it is difficult to estimate the number of undocumented immigrants, but Mark Grey, director of the Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration at the University of Northern Iowa, has estimated that 50,000 to 75,000 Latinos in Iowa are here illegally.
The organization’s recruiting drive in Iowa is occurring as efforts by immigration reform groups have stalled in Congress, and as President Bush has authorized a $1.2 billion fencing project that will be built along the U.S- Mexican border. In April, an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 Iowa immigrants rallied in downtown Des Moines in support of provisions to allow an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. legally.
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