17 September 2007

Jim Gilchrist's Minuteman Project

The Minuteman Project is an activist organisation started in April 2005 by a group of citizens to monitor the United States–Mexico border's flow of illegal immigrants, although it has expanded to include the United States-Canada border as well.

The name comes from the minutemen who fought in the American Revolution. The group's founder and principal director is Jim Gilchrist who lives 50 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border in California. Gilchrist holds a BA in newspaper journalism, a BS in business administration, and an MBA in taxation. He is a former newspaper reporter and a retired California CPA who let his CPA licence expire in 1993 soon after he declared personal bankruptcy in 1992. Gilchrist is also a veteran of the Marines and received a Purple Heart for wounds sustained while serving with an infantry unit in Vietnam, 1967 - 1969.

The Minuteman Project describes itself as "a citizens' Neighborhood Watch on our border", and has attracted media attention to illegal immigration. While Border Patrol officials have expressed concern over the accidental tripping of border sensors, rank-and-file agents largely endorse the effort.

On April 2, 2005, Minuteman Project volunteers, near Naco, reported the illegal immigration of 18 people, resulting in the would-be migrants being arrested by authorities. As of April 6, 2005, 531 volunteers had been positioned in the patrolled region.

On April 20, 2006, Jim Gilchrist and the Minuteman Project issued a public ultimatum to President Bush to "declare a state of emergency and deploy the National Guard and military reserves and begin building a border security fence by the 25th of May".

On October 4, 2006, approximately 40 students and demonstrators stormed the stage of Alfred Lerner Hall during a Minuteman presentation at Columbia here in NY, where Board Members Marvin Stewart and Gilchrist had been invited to speak.

The student protesters rushed onto the stage with a yellow banner stating "No one is Illegal" in English and Spanish. A crazy, violent clash occured. The protesters then gathered outside the Columbia University gates and continued chanting. The protest was eventually broken up by security.

The event spawned a public discussion at Columbia over freedom of speech and transparency regarding the process through which controversial speakers are invited to speak. Columbia University president Lee Bollinger stated in a campus-wide email that "No one … shall have the right or the power to use the cover of protest to silence speakers."

The event was monitored by several media organizations. Neil Cavuto interviewed Stewart, an African American, to announce a "Hate Crime" lawsuit against Columbia University for the racial insults that Stewart endured during his 55 minute speech.

Now we're hearing lecturer David Eisenbach invited Jim Gilchrist for this year's "Friendly Fire" lecture series at Columbia in January, and Gilchrist said he planned on attending, though "Nothing is completely solid at this point."

Naturally, the students involved in the protest groups who originally protested Gilchrist aren't happy, but there was an interesting reaction from College Republican director of operation Lauren Steinberg (class of 2009): "Personally, I really hope he's not coming. I mean, it was a fun time last year, but I don't need it to happen again."

In the meantime, Gilchrist has become interested in NYC real estate development. He wrote on his blog that he "giggled" when he watched a video of Columbia president Lee Bollinger get raked over the coals by Manhattanville expansion opponents: "It’s hard to feel bad for the man when he refuses to do anything to halt much worse behavior on his own campus."

Read: Minuteman Founder Says He's Returning to Campus

No comments: