During the last wave of hysteria about illegal immigration, I covered the subject for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group and tried to interview scores of Californians on all sides of the issue.
That's when I first met Jim Gilchrist, who founded a group that sent volunteers to the Mexican border to assist the Border Patrol.
They'd drive around with flashlights and night-vision goggles, search for groups of illegal immigrants, and alert the authorities when they spotted anyone. There were several organizations engaged in similar work, some of them populated by well-meaning advocates of law and order, others by virulent racists (as Gilchrist told me in a recent interview).
They had one thing in common: They had been radicalized by the idea that they were on the right side of the law in the immigration debate, and had public opinion on their side, too, but were losing on the issue because America's political elites refused to enforce duly enacted laws.
I wonder if Minuteman types, the Californians who were most passionately in favor of Proposition 187, and proponents of tough anti-illegal immigration laws like the one recently passed in Arizona are going to be further radicalized by President Obama's executive order, which gives a respite to a narrow class of illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as children, or whether it will be implemented without much affecting the larger politics of the issue.