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John Hollenhorst ReportingRussell SIas, Utah Minuteman Project: “If we can start bringing some heat on these guys maybe we can get some of this nonsense stopped.”
Going after the problem of illegal aliens by targeting companies that illegally hire them or do business with them, that's the strategy of a new group in Utah inspired by last month's Minuteman border-watch in southern Arizona. The brand-new 'Utah Minuteman Project' is already stirring controversy
The Minutemen insist they are not anti-foreigner or even anti-immigration. They say they just want the law to be followed. But a prominent Hispanic says their approach is immigrant-bashing that encourages racism.
Mexicans have been sneaking into the U.S. for decades. Last month fed-up Minutemen from around the country decided they'd had enough. They organized a highly publicized Arizona border-watch, even helping border guards round up undocumented immigrants. Several Utah Minutemen were in the thick of it.
Alex Segura, Utah Minuteman Project: “I’m all for people coming to this country, as long as they do it legally.”
Now they've set up a Utah spin-off group with its own website and a plan of action, convinced the Arizona exercise did some good.
Russell Sias, Utah Minuteman Project: “One, it demonstrated that yes, it can be controlled. I think it also demonstrated that by golly, the minutemen weren’t a bunch of vigilantes like President Bush wanted to claim us to be.”
They say they will not confront illegal immigrants, but they do intend a campaign of publicity and pressure against employers who illegally hire them.
Alex Segura, Utah Minuteman Project: “It’s done very common and it’s actually getting to the point where it’s getting out of control when it starts to displace American workers.”
Russell Sias, Utah Minuteman Project: “We need tougher laws and we need people held accountable.”
But critics say it's just a new form of immigrant bashing that will hurt all Hispanics, illegal or not.
Tony Yapias, Former Utah director of Hispanic Affairs: “It’s like having a heyday, ‘let’s go hunting illegals, let’s go harass illegals, let’s go make life miserable for illegals. That’s what they’re up to.”
The state's former director of Hispanic Affairs says undocumented workers help the economy and keeps prices low by taking low-paying jobs no one else wants.
Tony Yapias: “These are people that come here for an economic reason. Everybody is benefiting from it. You and I and everybody else, even themselves.”
Russell Sias: “Everybody’s wages is going to go in the toilet if we suppress those wages with an excess of labor.”
The first public effort by the Utah Minuteman Project will be a protest next month at two banks. The Minutemen claim the banks accept foreign ID's that are often used improperly by illegal aliens.