Minutemen Fight Could Kill Highway Program

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A judge has allowed the San Diego Minutemen's request to add two lawmakers to their lawsuit.

    The debate over a local anti-immigration group stretches all the way to our state's capitol. The controversial anti-illegal immigration group, San Diego Minutemen are continuing the fight against Caltrans' Adopt-a-Highway program. Meanwhile, the program is on hold while the state tries to wade through the legal battle.

    There is no legal way to ban the controversial anti-immigration group Minutemen from participating in California's Adopt-a-Highway
    program without shutting it down completely, said state Transportation Department chief Will Kempton.

    "The bottom line is there is no way to deny these folks regardless of how we feel about them," said Kempton. "We will lose in court if we try to elimiate these folks."

    Lawyers for the San Diego Minutemen say the Department of Transportation is drafting new rules for the litter celanup program to prevent the froup from getting a sign with its name on it along the freeway.

    Latino lawmakers are upset that Caltrans issued a litter pickup permit to the San Diego anti-immigration group in the first place. The stretch of highway being disputed is a two-mile section of I-5 that includes a major U.S. Border Patrol immigration checkpoint, near San Clemente.

    The Adopt-a-Highway program allows volunteers to pick up roadside trash and get a road sign with their name on it in return.

    Minutemen states they are a patriotic organization that seeks to ensure that U.S. immigration and border laws are enforced. Critics, however, say the Minutemen are racist vigilantes that use intimidation and harassment against immigrant rights activists, according to the Sacramento Bee.

    Minutemen founder Jeff Schwilk has denied that his group advocates violence or discrimination.

    Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, told the Sacramento Bee that she has been repeatedly harassed by group members. "If they were people of color, they would be labeled a gang."

    Back in February 2008, the Minutemen sued Caltrans after the agency revoked its permit to pick up trash along that section of I-5.

    Immigrants rights groups objected to the Minutemen's presence there and Caltrans officials said they feared vandalism or confrontations, according to our media partner the North County Times.

    Caltrans offered to move the Minutemen to another location near Santee, but they refused.

    Earlier last summer, the judge in the case ordered Caltrans to replace the sign, pending ongoing litigation. The judge said there was "little, if any, evidence" that would endanger the public.

    CalTrans is now drafting new rules that would allow the state greater flexibility in refusing applicants.

    Read the full North County Times article, "OCEANSIDE: Minutemen expand legal fight over highway cleanup".