Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Minutemen get new adopted highway stretch, farther from border. The risk is in the potential for disruption to the operation of the state highway as well as public safety.

SAN DIEGO—Getting moved farther away from the border might the beginning of the end of anti-illegal immigration group San Diego Minutemen's participation in an Adopt-A-Highway program.

The California Department of Transportation said Monday that the group can't sponsor a two-mile stretch of Interstate 5 near a Border Patrol checkpoint, saying it poses "a significant safety risk."

"The risk is in the potential for disruption to the operation of the state highway as well as public safety concerns for the traveling public and volunteers in the program," Caltrans district director Pedro Orso-Delgado said but did not elaborate.

Although the Minutemen will get another stretch on State Route 52 in San Diego—far from the Border Patrol checkpoint—even that might prove temporary. Caltrans said it was reconsidering whether the group was eligible for any piece of highway.

"We have received information during the past couple weeks that warrants a closer look at the San Diego Minutemen relative to the eligibility criteria for this program," Orso-Delgado said. "The department will pursue this review in an expeditious fashion."

Caltrans did not elaborate on the review and a spokesman did not respond to a phone call Monday night, but its statement said groups that advocate violence, discrimination or illegal activities cannot participate in the program.

San Diego Minutemen founder Jeff Schwilk did not immediately respond to a phone
message Monday night.
In November, Caltrans granted a permit for the Minutemen to tend to trash on a two-mile northbound stretch, north of San Diego, near where Border Patrol agents stop motorists and search for illegal immigrants hiding in cars. Adopt-A-Highway signs were emblazoned with the group's name.

Immigration advocates welcomed Caltrans' decision.

"We said from the get-go that those signs were going down," said Enrique Morones, who heads Border Angels, a group that provides water for people who cross the border illegally in remote areas. "Civility prevails."

The Minutemen boasted on its Web site that it removed 15 bags of trash from their own mess.

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