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I’m your neighbor and a Minuteman

Rank and file patriots are getting out of their suburban comfort zone to man the front lines of America’s culture war over illegal immigration. On Saturday, at 7 AM (29°, thank you), there I was, just another kook among 40+ people who were carrying such signs as “control crime: secure our borders” and “enforce our immigration laws now!” in front of Herndon’s taxpayer-funded day laborer site, a magnet for illegal aliens.

The controversy over the site has made the formerly sleepy town of Herndon nationally known for its illegal aliens policy – or lack thereof. Reports ranging from the Wall Street Journal to CNN’s Lou Dobbs regularly cite local residents explaining their day labor connection problems of drunkenness, vandalism, sexual harassment, urinating in the streets, etc.

The local Minutemen and other concerned “eccentrics” were out again on Saturday protesting politically correct public policy gone goofy. Councilwoman Ann Null was there to show her support too.

There were no racists or radicals in evidence on the picket line. It turns out that the dreaded Herndon Minutemen are just another community organization mobilized like neighborhood crime watch, meeting every week at a local service club. The chapter has grown to 120 members since George Taplin, a software engineer, founded it in late October. The group includes teachers, retired military men, homemakers, and a police trainee. There were no political zealots that I could spot (although one wag described himself as a “recovering Republican”).

Standing next to a woman carrying an American flag that she borrowed from her front porch in Sterling, I overheard snippets of the usual Northern Virginia chit-chat: 0423-azona-arizona-immigrationthere was talk about baseball, some complained about the kid’s sleep over schedules, and one guy griped over encountering traffic even on an early Saturday morning. The lady next to me, holding the “hi Mom” sign for the TV camera crews, explained to a befuddled newsman that there are some 200,000 illegal immigrants living in Virginia according to a study conducted last year by the Pew Hispanic Center. Another woman chimed in that, according to the 2005 US Census Bureau population survey, illegal aliens constitute one of the four immigrants in Virginia.

Sadly, that’s the sort of statistic-laden conversation you get into with suburban DC neighbors and coworkers these days. Frustrated that your local customer service call was outsourced to Bombay? Trouble communicating your order for two Big Macs without pickles at the corner McDonald’s? Does your homeowner Association whisper about the single-family home down the street with 13 residents and 14 cars?

Issues ranging from environmental strains to tax bill pains are eventually linked to unrestricted and illegal immigration policies. Indeed, there are now about 375,000 illegal immigrants in the greater Washington area, almost half of whom arrived in the last five years, according to the Pew Hispanic Center (which also estimates 50,000 illegal immigrants have moved into Northern Virginia just since 2000).

Federal politicians are unable or unwilling to respond to the security and economic threats posed by runaway immigration, so the Minutemen send volunteers to help watch our borders. Now their border watch activities have expanded to such communities as Salt Lake City and Charlotte North Carolina. Local immigration reform groups are exposing the underground economy that avoids taxes. Many day laborer contractors, who pick up day workers in front oft the Herndon Day Laborer building, are not registered to do business and don’t pay taxes. That places legitimate contractors at a competitive disadvantage in costing every taxpayer more money. Last month, George Taplin reported 16 violators to Virginia and federal authorities.

The culture war over illegal immigration is a flight that takes place in every Virginia neighborhood, from Reston to Roanoke. We’re all Minuteman now.

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This op/ed appeared in The washington Examiner on january 11, 2006

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