THE Arizona hunters gathering in April for the so-called "Minuteman Project" to search for undocumented immigrants along the border with Mexico aren't likely to have any success in stemming their migration to the United States.

It's simply a sham with racial implications. However, what it does reveal is that these "hunters" have no understanding of the immigration phenomenon and could create serious danger on the border. They are hunters of hate.

Project Minuteman's stated purpose is to create a "... blocking force against entry into the U.S. by illegal aliens, drug dealers and potential terrorists."

Close to 2,000 volunteers will patrol the San Pedro Valley along the Arizona-Mexico border, "spotting intruders entering the U.S. illegally."

They promise they will make no arrests nor even touch the undocumented immigrants, but they do intend to follow them and will report them to the Border Patrol until they are arrested.

What kind of people can devote 30 days without pay to the pursuit of undocumented immigrants? The irony is that the food these hunters consume and the houses they inhabit were undoubtedly harvested and built, respectively, by the same immigrants they pursue. They complain about undocumented immigrants while benefiting from their labor.

Project Minuteman is meaningless. Its volunteers, taking justice into their own hands, plan to patrol only

20 miles of the frontier. But they're forgetting about the other 1,931 miles of border between Mexico and the United States.


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To stop the flow of undocumented immigrants like this is comparable to attempting to change the course of a river with a stone; like water, the immigrants will simply find their way around the sides, to the path of least resistance.

The real danger of this paramilitary operation is that it may cause even more deaths along the border. The 500 additional agents already dispatched by the Border Patrol aren't enough to prevent violence and save lives.

The immigrants and the "coyotes" who guide them know perfectly well what goes on at the Arizona border and will surely take other, more dangerous routes to enter the United States. The ultimate result of this "peaceful, lawful protest," as they call it, could be measured in human lives.

Probably the only common ground shared by anti-immigrant organizations — like The Minuteman Project — and defenders of undocumented immigrants' rights is the recognition that the border is out of control and that something must be done about it.

Every day, an average of

4,000 people try to cross the border from Mexico to the United States illegally. Three thousand end up arrested, about 1,000 make it across successfully and one dies in the attempt. Given the odds in favor of survival — only one probability of dying in 1,000 — these desperate people continue to chance it, day after day.

Essentially, what is really important is that a lot of people are dying at the border: one a day. It is unacceptable and it has to stop.

President Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox have clearly shown a lack of political will to solve the problem of the fatalities along their common border. Since 2000 they have done nothing concrete to prevent the 400 immigrant deaths each year along the border.

What could they do? Three things:

- Give legal status to the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, according to the latest Pew Hispanic Center study. It's not only a humanitarian question, it is also about national security. If the United States is to take the war on terror seriously, it must know who is living within its borders.

- Negotiate an immigration accord between Mexico and the United States. Only this can guarantee an orderly flow of immigrants, whom the United States so needs, while preventing fatalities along the border.

- Create a broad U.S. investment program for Mexico and the rest of Latin America — a kind of Marshall Plan for the region. This would generate well-paying jobs in Latin America, thereby preventing many inhabitants from viewing the United States as their only economic alternative. 

The immigration problem won't be resolved with a magic wand, nor with populist speeches or visits to presidential ranches. As long as there are unemployed workers in Mexico and Latin America and jobs for them in the United States that pay 10 times more than in their home countries, illegal migration will continue to flow northward.

For that reason, xenophobic actions like those of The Minuteman Project won't resolve anything, but will only serve to underscore the great American contradiction: that this country, created by immigrants, is turning its back on them, leaving them to perish in the desert.

Jorge Ramos, an Emmy-award winning journalist and author, is the anchor of Univision News, America's most-watched Spanish-language news program. He is the author of six best-selling books,

including "The Other Face of America," "No Borders" and, most recently, "The Latino Wave."