When the San Diego Minutemen, an anti-illegal immigration group known for taking border patrol laws into their own hands became a member of Adopt-a-Highway (the keep-it-clean volunteer road service) they were quite surprised by the stretch of highway they were given. Their assigned turf was near a Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 5, a main route known for carrying illegal migrants into the United States from Mexico.
The state however has since decided to remove the sign crediting their litter patrolling. They fear demonstrators or vandals would create a safety hazard along the highway — as well as fearing harm to the Minutemen who would be clearing litter on that stretch. To see their response, read more.
The Minutemen contend otherwise. Their attorney said, “we can’t have our free speech because if we do, people who don’t like it might become unruly and unlawful.” And made a more pointed accusation by saying, “we were moved to silence our message in response to pressure from the open border advocates and the Latino caucus.” The US District Judge appeared to agree with the Minutemen on that point. “It would seem you’re saying you’re allowing the people who are unhappy with the message to dictate who can be in the program.”
The Adopt-a-Highway has had another controversial patron in the past. In 2005, the Ku Klux Klan adopted a stretch in Missouri and when the Adopt-a-Highway group tried to discontinue their membership, the Supreme Court sided with the KKK despite the Adopt-a-Highway’s regulation prohibiting groups that deny membership with a documented history of violence. State legislators — to contrast the image of a hate-based group advertising on publicly-owned land — renamed the length of highway adopted by the KKK, the Rosa Parks Highway.
In the Minutemen's case, the lawyer for the state said that the Adopt-a-Highway signs are just a "thank-you" from the state, not political messages protected under the First Amendment. If the Minutemen are doing the work of keeping the road clean, are they entitled to a sign? Was the state right to remove the sign before it caused trouble? Should controversial groups be allowed to volunteer — and get credit?