Saying that it needs more time to prepare volunteers, a Chino group planning citizen patrols at the Mexican border near San Diego this summer has rescheduled the launch date for Sept. 16, Mexican Independence Day.
Border Watch organizer Andy Ramirez said he has received more than 700 applications and wants to make sure volunteers are properly trained and equipped before beginning the patrols, originally planned for Aug. 1.
"There are a lot of logistics involved," said Ramirez, whose grandfather was a Mexican immigrant.
Border Watch is modeled after the Minuteman Project, which drew hundreds of citizens to Arizona in April to help deter illegal immigrants from crossing into the United States.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the Minutemen, saying that the federal government is not doing its job protecting the borders. But President Bush has denounced the brigade as vigilantes.
The goal of the California effort is to support Border Patrol agents and continue raising awareness about the poorly secured border, Ramirez said. Mexican Independence Day was chosen to show support for Mexican residents, he said. If there were more job opportunities in Mexico, he said, there would not be such a severe illegal immigration problem.
Mexican government officials, however, say that scheduling the citizen patrols on a national holiday is designed to get media coverage. Sept. 16 celebrates the call for independence from Spain in 1810.
"The Mexican government rejects vigilantism," said Ruben Beltran, Mexico's consul general in Los Angeles.
The delay will allow organizers more time to conduct training, arrange housing and gather supplies, including portable toilets and food, Ramirez said. The extra 6 1/2 weeks also gives organizers the chance to coordinate more carefully with local law enforcement agencies.
San Diego County Sheriff's Capt. Glenn Revell, who met with Ramirez last month, said he was glad to see the event delayed until September so it doesn't coincide with the county fair. Deputies plan to monitor the event to ensure it remains peaceful.