Just before its official commencement, the Minuteman Project has helped U.S. officials capture at least 18 suspected illegal aliens.

Volunteers with the group of private citizens spotted the migrants yesterday as they were familiarizing themselves with the area near Naco, Ariz.

When federal agents arrived at the scene, they took into custody 18 migrants, Border Patrol spokesman Andy Adame told the Associated Press.

Citizens protest against lack of border control at Naco, Ariz., on April 2 (photo: AmericanPatrol.com)

“You observe them, report them and get out of the way,” Mike McGarry, a spokesman for the project, told the wire service.

Another illegal immigrant was taken into custody Friday after strolling into a camp of the Minutemen.

“He inadvertently wandered into the hornets’ nest,” Minuteman spokesman Fred Elbel told Reuters.

“But it turned out to be his lucky day,” he added. “He was tired and dehydrated and we gave him medical attention, food and drink before handing him over to the Border Patrol.”

The Guatemalan man headed for a Bible college in Palominas, Ariz., not knowing it was a camp for the citizen patrollers.

“It’s not uncommon to have aliens that have had enough,” Adame told AP. “They’ll walk up to someone’s house and ask them to call us. They’re waiting on the porch when we arrive.”

The Minuteman Project has drawn hundreds of participants from across America, looking to help Border Patrol apprehend migrants who continue to stream across the border.

President Bush has referred to the group as vigilantes, and as WorldNetDaily reported, the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union wants to monitor the activities of those on patrol.

Officials with the Mexican government have also threatened civil lawsuits against any participant who harms a Mexican national during the month-long exercise.

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