One of the biggest issues (aside from paper or plastic) that divides people in the U.S. is illegal immigration. No one disputes that our borders are porous and that thousands of Mexicans cross the border each month without permission. The issue is whether this flood of humanity is hurtful or helpful to our country.

It's only fair that I confess my position and admit that I'm a card-carrying member of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps. I've sat in the dark all through the night watching the desert for the invasion of our land. My husband, father, father-in-law, brother-in-law and more family members are by my side, although I'm the only woman in this lineage crazy enough to join them.

It is eerily quiet until we hear voices or the bushes rustling. Then, armed with our radios we report what we've seen and give the location so the Border Patrol can be notified. None of my group carries a weapon or intends any harm. We simply believe that the Border Patrol can't be everywhere so we want to help. We also want to create a bit of awareness about the multitudes who are successfully entering the U.S. unnoticed.

We've seen drug dealers conduct meetings and flee on motorcycles, and know that more and more coyotes are brazenly carrying guns as they transport their human cargo across the border. We see evidence of the little bands of travelers as they leave their garbage where they've spent the night. It is more than a little risky but so are most important causes.

While I'm sure there are some in this organization who are racist extremists, most simply love our country and want to protect it. They're tired of seeing the economy drained as illegal aliens abuse the health care system, overfill classrooms and flee from traffic accidents because they are uninsured. They desire to protect our country and the border state of Arizona from the lawless drug runners who consider this their target market.

I've been called racist and radical, which is ironic considering that my family and I also do mission service in Mexico. We donate money, clothes and supplies and we've served at retreats and vacation Bible school in Mexico. We feel the desperation of need and have love and compassion for the citizens of that country.

We believe the culprit is a corrupt Mexican government. I've interviewed immigrants, both legal and illegal, as well as pastors and social workers and am convinced that most Mexican people would prefer to remain in their own country if they could make enough money to feed their families. Lots come here with the intent to work for a while to earn a nest-egg then return home. They risk a great deal as they attempt to cross the border alone or pay a coyote to bring them here. Many have to repeat this effort several times before they arrive successfully.

Bottom line for this commentary is that I believe that patriotism and compassion are not mutually exclusive. As patriots, we need to protect our borders and not dangle a carrot of freebies to draw people across illegally. I also believe that there is no room for hatred toward those who are here. They are desperate and fearful so be generous to rescue missions. We also need to step up our giving and service to Mexico; they're our neighbors, victimized and oppressed by a cast system where corruption begins at the lowest levels.

As we celebrate Independence Day this weekend in our multi-cultural country, we need to remember that we are united in freedom (regardless of race) by our bond as Americans and that's where our loyalties should rest. We also need to expand on the legacy of our land as the most compassionate of all nations.


Ahwatukee Foothills resident Diane Markins can be reached at Visit her blog at

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