The American Civil Liberties Union may fight for those holding unpopular beliefs and taking controversial stands, but the ACLU of New Mexico suspended an entire chapter of the organization because a member of the board of directors is leading the state’s Minuteman group.

The state organization suspended its Las Cruces chapter after learning that a member of the group’s board, Clifford Alford, was heading the formation of a Minuteman group in New Mexico.

Gary Mitchell, a Ruidoso attorney and president of the ACLU board of directors, said the suspension of the southern chapter was a technical move to make sure the leader of the New Mexico Minutemen, a civilian border patrol group, no longer had authority to act or speak on behalf of the ACLU.

“We will not tolerate racism and vigilantism in the leadership structure of our organization,” Mitchell told the Albuquerque Journal. “They are repugnant to the principles of civil liberties and the mission of the ACLU.”

Alford has said he’s not a hateful vigilante and that he would like to see immigration policy reformed. He has said that if the federal government allowed more immigrant workers to enter the country legally, many problems on the border would be solved. He reportedly scouted the New Mexico-Mexico border two weeks ago for sites to station his 42 volunteers to detect illegal immigrants sneaking into the country. His group plans to offer food, water and medical aid while reporting the illegal immigrants to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Mitchell said the ACLU was not trying to muzzle Alford. It is just a matter of not wanting him representing the ACLU in a leadership position. When Alford refused to resign, the state board decided over the weekend to temporarily suspend the 14-member southern board until new elections are held. Mitchell said the ACLU’s rules do not provide a means for removing a single board member, so the entire board had to be suspended.

“We are not going to tolerate anyone depriving anyone of liberty without due process of law, not going to tolerate vigilante groups on the border without speaking out against them and without monitoring,” Mitchell said.

Alford said the dust-up is the result of a lack of understanding about how the Border Watch group plans to operate. He said the ACLU didn’t ask questions, “just attacked.”

The ACLU has mobilized nationally against the Minuteman Project and last April stationed its own volunteers on the border to watch the border monitors watch the illegal aliens – reporting any civil liberties violations to authorities.

The president of the ACLU’s Southern District chapter, former State Rep. William Porter, said he didn’t know how the local board would respond to being suspended.

“We are not 100 percent happy with it,” Porter said.

Porter said he does not support Alford’s Border Watch group and would personally like Alford to resign but believes it is up to the local board to seek Alford’s removal if that is its decision.

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