Minutemen decide not to expel founder in tiff over immigration stance

Published: Thursday, July 22 2010 10:59 p.m. MDT

Rick Braithwaite expresses his feelings about Minuteman founder Alex Segura's appeal for calm with Tony Yapias.

Michael Brandy, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

SALT LAKE CITY — By a single vote, members of the Utah Minuteman Project chose on Thursday not to expel their founder, Alex Segura, for his appearance last week with Hispanic activist Tony Yapias at a press event calling for calm in the immigration debate.

But members did yell, cuss and point fingers at Segura for two hours. They made abundantly clear they were furious at his actions.

He did plenty of yelling and cussing in return. But in the end, they all figured they could use each other to fight illegal immigration.

"Personally, I don't want to disfellowship him. But I do want to hold him accountable," said Eli Cawley, the current chairman of the group, just before its dues-paying members present voted 8-7 not to oust Segura. About 50 people were at the meeting, but only 15 had paid dues.

Cawley and Segura argued for hours before the vote about Segura's much-publicized appearance with Yapias — an advocate for Hispanics — and also about whether the group should support state workers who compiled a list of 1,300 Utahns they said are in the country illegally.

Cawley called the state workers "great patriots" who tried to expose people who are breaking the law. "It's our duty to resist tyranny," Cawley said.

But Segura said the workers who made the list apparently broke the law — so if Minutemen applaud them, they are as bad as illegal immigrants who break the law.

"I can never support the list for two reasons. The workers violated their terms of employment. And it was racial profiling. That list only contained the names of Hispanics," said Segura, who is Hispanic but vehemently against illegal immigration.

Cawley asked how many of the 50 in attendance supported Segura's stand on "the list." Only two did.

Cawley said only he is authorized to speak for the Minuteman Project and only after consulting its board. Segura, who holds no official title with the group now, agreed with that condition in order to stay with the group.

But Segura did tell the group that they are destroying any credibility they have with the Legislature by supporting "the list" and its authors.

He said he has no regrets about appearing with Yapias because it was needed to calm debate, and he said the statesmanship brought power and credibility to the Minutemen that they may lose now by backing the list.

Segura did say, however, that he almost "popped" Yapias at their appearance when Yapias put his arms around Segura in front of an American flag. "It was all I could do to hold back," he said — but added that showing restraint was needed.

Segura has not been actively involved with the Minuteman Project the past couple of years and he said in that time the group has become an entity that "just sits in meetings and bitches about everything" instead of holding protests and becoming involved in politics.

He said Cawley let it degenerate into that, and called for more "action, action, action."

Segura also told the group that his involvement has cost him his job, cars and maybe soon his home. He said he lost jobs because bosses did not like his political involvement.

He said others won't hire him because many employ Hispanics or illegal aliens, and they worry Segura could be an informant.

"I put in my heart and soul, and lost my life, for this group," he said.

Segura also told the group might do him a favor if it expelled him because he would move to Arizona and likely more easily find a job there.

"I'll go to Arizona, and I won't have to worry about passing an Arizona-type law because I will live in one," he said.

e-mail: lee@desnews.com

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