Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in the moments following the Values Voter Debate Sept. 17, 2007, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (WND photo)

Controversy is escalating among border security organization leaders and various Minuteman activists upset over an endorsement by Jim Gilchrist, founder of The Minuteman Project, of former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

After confirming Monday he had questions about his endorsement of Huckabee, Gilchrist yesterday went on a series of radio interviews, announcing to listeners he had decided to stick with his endorsement, even though Huckabee’s immigration plan was less than perfect.

But his refusal to withdraw his endorsement of Huckabee hardened the resolve of many former Gilchrist supporters to renounce his endorsement and defeat Huckabee.

William Gheen, president of ALIPAC, said Huckabee must be defeated because the open borders lobby will just use Gilchrist’s endorsement to “deceive voters on their way to victory.”

“Mike Huckabee went on Larry King Live last night,” Gheen said, “and Huckabee’s message was the head of the Minutemen supports me, so my immigration record in Arkansas must be okay. We don’t think Huckabee’s record on illegal immigration merits our support and we reject Gilchrist for abandoning the principles we thought we were fighting together to uphold.”

The Americans for Legal Immigration, or ALIPAC, has published on the group’s website a letter signed by more than 80 border security organizations and various Minutemen activists denouncing Gilchrist.

“We denounce Jim Gilchrist’s solo endorsement of a pro-amnesty and open borders candidate for president,” the ALIPAC letter reads. “Mr Gilchrist does not speak for us!”

At issue is Huckabee’s “Secure America Plan.”

As WND reported, Gilchrist in an interview this past weekend discussed Huckabee’s “touch-back” provisions, saying, “Nothing I can find in Huckabee’s plan indicates he is going to let the illegal immigrants back into the country the next day after they go home.”

“The illegal aliens, once they are back home, will have to stand in line with everybody else and apply for legal entry at the end of the line,” Gilchrist insisted.

Then, on Monday, Gilchrist was shown a Dec. 9 interview Huckabee gave to Chris Wallace of Fox News, two days before Gilchrist’s endorsement, in which Huckabee admitted repatriated illegal aliens should only have to wait days, not years, under his Secure America Plan, before they received the legal documents that would permit them to re-enter the United States.

Huckabee told Wallace, “But the pathway to get back here legally doesn’t take years. It would take days, maybe weeks, and then people could come back in the workforce.”

When Gilchrist saw the discrepancy, his immediate reaction was to say, “I personally need to talk to Gov. Huckabee about this. This issue needs to be between Gov. Huckabee and me.”

Gilchrist declined to withdraw immediately his endorsement.

“I need to get answers from Huckabee himself about this discrepancy,” Gilchrist admitted. “I want a valid explanation and I want it published.”

Then in multiple radio appearances yesterday, Gilchrist returned to endorsing Huckabee, maintaining he was sticking with his endorsement of Huckabee as the top tier candidate Gilchrist felt had a chance to win the presidency, even if flaws were found in the candidate’s immigration policies.

Gilchrist appears to have shifted his position on the touch-back provisions in Huckabee’s Secure America Plan.

He initially said, “If, in fact there is no standing in line and waiting for legal entry, I would have a serious reservation endorsing Huckabee.”

Now, Gilchrist appears to accept Huckabee’s Dec. 9 interview statements affirming his Secure America Plan touch-back provisions could allow illegal aliens who repatriated to their homelands to return to the United States in a matter of days.

A CNN transcript of the Larry King Live show from Monday, Dec. 17, shows Huckabee utilizing Gilchrist’s endorsement as a certificate of approval for his immigration policies.

The transcript shows King asking Huckabee, “People say that you are soft on illegal immigration.”

Huckabee responded, “Well, not hardly. They can go to my Web site and see a nine-point plan that we put together. It was impressive enough that the founder of the Minutemen Project, Jim Gilchrist, offered his endorsement of me. I think that surprised a lot of people.”

The ALIPAC letter also raised questions about Huckabee’s touch-back provisions.

“Gov. Huckabee also favors a ‘touchback’ provision, which we feel is a trick to confuse voters,” the ALIPAC letter states.”He would have illegal aliens leave for a day, pick up new papers, and then re-enter the U.S. legally, which is not the back of the immigration line!”

The signatories to the ALIPAC letter included Chris Simcox, head of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC); Brook Young,; Wanda Piety, Save America Fund; Andy Ramirez, Friends of the Border Patrol; Melissa Gardner, Let Freedom Ring; Steve Hampton, Protect Our Border; Hayward Vickery, Jr., U.S. Border Watch; Phyllis Sears, Citizens Council on Illegal Immigration; Ron Bass, United Patriots of America; Mark Edwards, The Wake Up America; Danny Smith, American Freedom Riders; Jim Palmer, Buy Direct USA; Michelle Dallacroce, Mothers Against Illegal Aliens; Hal Netkin, Watchdog America; and Burr Deitz, New York Constitution Party.

Other signatories came from various organizations in the Minuteman movement, including: Sandra Beene, TexasMinutemen; Hal Washburn, MCDC Washington State; Michael Apple, MCDC California-North Bay Chapter; Jeff Schwilk, San Diego Minutemen; Robert Copley, Sr., Colorado Minutemen; Scott DiBenedetto, Pahrump Minutemen; and Walter Adams, Pennsylvanis Minutemen; Dennis Murphy, Nebraska MCDC;

The signatories also included many prominent individuals in the border security movement, many of whom had been longtime Gilchrist supporters: Barb Coe, California Coalition for Immigration Reform; Los Angeles activist Ted Hayes; as well as authors Frosty Wooldridge and Dan Sheehy.

Gheen told WND that ALIPAC is still accepting signatures to the letter.

The segment of the Larry King Live show in which Huckabee answers the question on his immigration policy can be viewed on YouTube.

Gilchrist declined to comment.

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