Lawmaker joins up with Minuteman border patrol

In a week when thousands of Oregonians demonstrated against tougher immigration policies, a state lawmaker and part-time radio talk show host flew his private plane to Arizona to join up with the Minuteman group patrolling the border with Mexico.

Republican State Rep. Jeff Kropf of Sublimity said he didn’t time his trip as a counter-protest. He had hoped to be in Arizona earlier to lend a personal hand to the group that has gained national attention by spotting and turning in people crossing the border illegally.

He describes himself as passionate about the border question because of its implications for U.S. jobs, national security, drug policy and disease transmission.

“And our government is just not securing our borders,” he said.

Kropf, also a grass-seed farmer and a dealer in farm products, is host of a talk show in Portland on Saturdays and Sundays. He said he’d broadcast his show from Arizona this weekend.

He said appeals to listeners and an e-mail campaign from Oregonians for Immigration Reform raised $1,800 for his trip. He said he’s burning aviation fuel at $4 a gallon, and he’ll dip into his personal funds to help pay for the trip.

Kropf said he paid $50 to join the Minuteman group and undergo training. He arrived in Arizona on Monday, and was in the air patrolling Tuesday and Wednesday, he said. He said the group helped border agents arrest 14 people Wednesday.

Members of the group, he said, don’t try to confront or stop people crossing into the United States. Instead, Kropf said, they report sightings to federal border patrol officers.

“We don’t apprehend people,” he said. “We don’t get close to them.”

Even with help, the law enforcement net is porous, he said. “For every one they catch, three or four get through,” he said.

Kropf said the Minuteman group draws large numbers of retired military personnel and law enforcement officers, numbering 100 at any one time, and they are a sensible, well-armed lot.

“I haven’t met anybody out here yet who I think is a nut,” he said.

Kropf is a candidate for re-election in November. He said his rural Willamette Valley district has few Hispanic voters, and he doesn’t expect his trip to be an issue. “Most of my district is conservative, even the Democrats,” he said.

A call to his likely Democratic opponent, Dan Thackaberry of Lebanon, was not immediately returned.

Kropf said he hopes the trip draws attention to a package of bills he plans to introduce in the 2007 session of the Oregon Legislature. The bill would allow local officers to help federal agents enforce immigration laws, deny driver’s licenses and services not required by the federal government to illegal immigrants and make it a felony to help an illegal immigrant.