Bill Richardson and the Minutemen: Bordering on a Mistake

It should come as no surprise, especially after reading yesterday’s fawning LA Times profile, that New Mexico governor Bill Richardson is going to great lengths to gear up for a 2008 presidential bid. But it’s a bit surprising when the governor starts talking about one of his signature issues — immigration — in terms that contrast starkly with his record. On Friday, citing smuggling and crime, Richardson declared a “state of emergency” in four of New Mexico’s border counties and lambasted the federal government for failing to crack down on illegal immigrants. And, most disappointingly, Richardson asked to meet with Chris Simcox, the president of the volunteer vigilante group the Minutemen.

While crime and drug smuggling are no doubt serious concerns that need serious consideration, illegal immigration itself is a complex issue, as Richardson should know. Meeting with Simcox, and thus implicitly legitimating a radical fringe group like the Minutemen, fails to appreciate the nuances. After all, these are the same Minutemen that the border patrol has said “could cause more trouble than they prevent“; the same Minutemen that the Aryan Nation homepage linked to (and called for “ALL ARYAN SOLDIERS” to join); the same Minutemen that, bizarrely, derided Condoleeza Rice as a “communist”; and the same Minutemen that spawned a host of imitators who carry firearms on patrol. This just isn’t a tough call: Richardson should not be meeting with them.

In 2003–when his presidential ambitions were considerably less public — Richardson told a rally of the “Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride” that “New Mexico is your home.” “Thank you for coming to Sante Fe,” Richardson swooned. “We will protect you. You have rights here.

That certainly isn’t what the Minutemen are saying, and Governor Richardson shouldn’t be encouraging them.

UPDATE: Media Matters reports that the WSJ has issued a retraction on the original claim that Bill Richardson had asked to meet with Minutemen President Chris Simcox. We regret having used the erroneous report, and apologize to Governor Richardson for the error.