On my Corner: Making a point

MAKING HIS POINT dressed in Minuteman attire and holding an antique musket in one hand and his sign in the other is Bob Casimiro of Bridgton stands near the Main Hill monument early Monday morning. (Rivet Photo)

Editor’s note: You have probably seen him in Pondicherry Square or at the Main Hill monument — be it in the heat of summer or frigid days of winter — holding a sign regarding securing America’s borders in one hand and waving to those who pass by with the other. Why does Bob Casimiro of Bridgton do it? Here’s his answer.

By Bob Casimiro

Bridgton

This is my story.

On April 1, 2005 — twelve years ago — hundreds of Americans descended on Tombstone, Arizona to sign up with the Minuteman Project. We filed into historic Schieffelin Hall to register, and listen to introductory speeches while, outside, reporters and TV cameramen milled about interviewing people for the nightly news, all the while being entertained by a Native American dance troupe. The whole event had a carnival atmosphere.

After registration, most of us went to Minuteman Project headquarters at the Miracle Valley Bible College on Arizona State highway 92 in Hereford, Arizona. I pitched my tent on the ballfield, while most of the others bunked in the school dormitory. We then went through an orientation program and were on border watch for two weeks in the Naco area, and at various posts paralleling the Hauchuca Mountains of south central Arizona.

We had daylight and evening shifts, with up to 15 two-person posts stretching out several hundred feet along our assigned locations. Whenever we detected illegal activity, we radioed the Border Patrol, who would come and investigate.

The Minuteman Project was the brainchild of Jim Gilchrist, a retired accountant and Vietnam veteran, who wanted to bring attention to the deplorable security situation on our border with Mexico. In 2005, the year this project was initiated, the Border Patrol apprehended 1,291,065 aliens crossing our borders — the highest number from 2002 to 2016 — and 1,171,391 of these, or 91%, were apprehended at our Southwest border. Gilchrist collaborated with local activist Chris Simcox, editor of the Tombstone Tumbleweed newspaper, in devising and implementing this program.

It was a new and challenging experience for all of us but, remarkably, we were able to settle into a routine with no serious mishaps, in spite of the counter-protester law students from Phoenix, and a less than welcoming reception from Border Patrol management. Since that first trip in April 2005, I have made eight additional trips, and expect to make my tenth trip in the spring of 2018.

My interest in the border and the immigration issue goes back to 9/11 when, like many Americans, I was shocked by the terrorist attack and was motivated to become more active. I bought small American flags that fit on car antennas and went around my neighborhood in Weymouth, Mass., putting them on vehicles in parking lots. I then walked the streets of Weymouth and placed flyers in mailboxes of homes, where the flag was improperly displayed.

I latched onto the immigration issue with a passion. My research included listening to the audio feeds of hearings on immigration matters in the U.S. Congress, even to the point of downloading and printing out pages and pages of testimony of witnesses at these hearings. I also went around the Boston area dropping in at any immigration organization I could find, including the Asian American Service Association, North Quincy; the Latin American Health Institute (UN PASO MAS), South Boston; Catholic Charities, Refugee & Immigration Services, Somerville; the Haitian Multi-Center, Dorchester; the Office for Refugees and Immigrants (ORI), Boston; Irish International Immigration Center, Boston.

I learned a lot, annoyed many people in the process and, subsequently, became executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Immigration Reform (MCIR). I am currently executive director of Mainers for Responsible Immigration (MRI).

I acquired my “Secure Our Border” signs two-and-a-half years ago from 
NumbersUSA, an immigration restrictionist organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. I try to display it daily for 15 minutes wherever I happen to be, mostly in Bridgton, but also in Harrison, Naples, Windham, Fryeburg, North Conway, N.H. and, occasionally, on Monument Square in Portland. So far, this year I have displayed it 292 days; 309 days in 2016.

My reception has generally been favorable in the Bridgton area, but quite different when I go to Monument Square in Portland. I have been called “bigot,” “anti-immigrant,” and “idiot” by pedestrian passersby. On one of my forays into Portland, Michael Brennan, Portland mayor at the time, stopped to chat briefly with me about my sign, the upshot being he didn’t believe in fences, and Portland was a “welcoming” city. That says all you need to know about radical liberals/progressives.

So, what will happen with the “wall,” and will it be built? It is anyone’s guess at this point. The U.S. Congress passed the Secure Border Act in 2006, and President Bush signed into law. It mandated the construction of 700 miles of double-layered fencing; only 32 miles of the double-layered fencing has been built.

More to follow.

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