SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Minuteman Project said Monday that it may oust its founder, Alex Segura, for appearing last week with Tony Yapias, an activist who is a voice for illegal immigrants, in a joint appeal for calm in the immigration debate.
However, after issuing a press conference announcing plans for impeachment, UMP chairman Eli Cawley later said he and Segura talked on the phone, made personal amends, and said he doubts Segura will be expelled now.
"But he will still need to appear at our meeting on Thursday and answer to others about his actions," Cawley said. "Members will have to decide whether to reaffiliate with Alex."
Cawley earlier issued a press release that said the group had decided to initiate impeachment of Segura not only for appearing with Yapias but also for criticizing the UMP in that appearance for describing state employees who helped compile a list of 1,300 alleged illegal immigrants from state databases as "patriots" who should be praised.
UMP co-chairman Michael Sanchez said, "I, and most if not all of the UMP members feel personally betrayed by Alex. It is a pity that he would try to manipulate the pro-enforcement community by making common cause with Tony Yapias and attacking the UMP leadership for his personal gain."
Cawley had also said in the release that Segura's "public chumminess with Tony Yapias, enemy of the rule of law and the Utah people, has revealed Mr. Segura's true colors."
But after their later phone conversation, Cawley said that he and Segura still agreed on 98 percent of immigration-related issues, and that Segura's public criticism of the Minutemen had been based on what Cawley said were not-quite-accurate portrayals in the press.
"I think after he talks to our group, the result will be forgiveness, kindness and understanding, and we will move forward," Cawley said.
Segura told the Deseret News he does not regret his appearance with Yapias. "It was something that needed to be done."
He added, "I knew there would be strong feelings on this side. I think Eli just said some things without thinking them through clearly."
Segura added that he doesn't want debate on immigration sidetracked by the "illegal immigrant" list. "We want to keep the focus on the effort to pass a bill like in Arizona" to require police to question the immigration status of people they detain on other matters, if they have reason to suspect they are here illegally."
Cawley said that while the UMP has many who follow its views and updates, it has only 26 dues-paying members including Segura (who holds no office with the group now). He said those 26 will decide whether any membership action will be taken against Segura.