More than a dozen states also accept the matriculas as a valid ID to secure a driver's license. In late 2003, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger repealed a law that would have permitted such a use in California.

"They're trying to colonize America. The Mexican consulate's office, the matricula card program is all part of the colonization of America," says Minuteman rally spokesperson Raymond Herrera, a Mexican-American Vietnam veteran with a croaky voice. Herrera says he can no longer work as a carpenter because employers hire illegal immigrants at lower pay.

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Minutewomen display their demands in front of Capistrano unified school district headquarters Feb. 11
Daffodil J. Altan
Minutewomen display their demands in front of Capistrano unified school district headquarters Feb. 11
Patricia Mariscal
Courtesy the Minutemen
Patricia Mariscal

The details of the minutemen's attempt to stop the "colonization" of CUSD on Dec. 9 remain somewhat obscure. Around noon, after the Minutemen protest was under way, the police were called—on the Minutemen. According to the sheriff's department incident report, the unidentified "informant" who made the call reported that two female and two male protesters were inside the school being disruptive.

Craig, the Minutewoman who had been taking pictures, said tensions escalated when volunteer Mariscal attempted to prevent her from doing so. Mariscal is executive director of UNICO (United Communities), which made all the arrangements for the 100 mobile visits completed during the five years that Luis Miguel Ortiz Haro was Santa Ana's Mexican consul. Ortiz Haro says he personally attended every mobile visit made during his tenure—except for this one, which was attended by deputy consul Manuel Herrera Rábago because Ortiz Haro was out of town. "We had never had any problems," Ortiz Haro says.

Until that December day. "[Mariscal] was yelling and screaming as soon as I took the picture," Craig says. "She would stand in front of me with her open hand, and then the camera would come out and hit me in the face. . . I got a laceration on my face and I got a fat lip as a result of that."

When the sheriff's deputy arrived, he spoke with Mariscal and deputy consul Herrera Rábago inside the building, according to the incident report. Mariscal did not have the facilities-usage form issued by the district. Assistant Principal Greg Hartman was called; he confirmed that the consulate had permission to use the building. The Minutemen were told by the officer that they could continue with their protests.

The Minutemen's Herrera says the deputy told them that Mariscal had "diplomatic immunity," and therefore they believed they could not file an assault report, he says. Damon Micalizzi, spokesperson for the sheriff's department, says the deputy who responded to the call "did have a discussion with some of the Minutemen regarding immunity associated with foreign diplomats. The conversation was general in nature and not in reference to any specific person or any alleged assault."

Photographs of Mariscal, along with the Minutemen version of the story, soon made their way through the vast, loose network of anti-illegal-immigration organizations, even showing up on Phoenix and Las Vegas Craigslists under the banner, "Woman Assaulted by a Representative of the Mexican Government."

"To our utter amazement," read a narrative e-mail that was widely circulated, "Mariscal started to strike out at the Minutewoman! We were in a state of shock. As she yelled, she struck across the Minutewoman's lower right jaw and lip several times."

There is no confirmation of the alleged attack that set off the firestorm. Although pictures have circulated on the Internet and on YouTube depicting the moment just before Mariscal allegedly "lashed out" at Craig, neither she nor the Minutemen have provided pictures of the actual "assault" or of Craig's allegedly split lip.

According to the sheriff's department, the attending deputy, T. Spratt, "gave the parties his card with phone numbers they could use should they need him to come back for any reason. . . . At no time during the hour and 10 minutes he was there did anyone report an assault to him." Spratt was on duty until midnight, and "at no time did either party call to report any crime," the report states.

Mariscal laughs at the suggestion she attacked someone. "If that had happened, I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you. My lawyer would be on the phone with you," she says. "The Minutemen version of the story is simply that—their version." Mariscal declined to comment further for this story.

Mexican consulate representatives said the new consul, Carlos Rodriguez y Quezada, would not comment for this story.

Craig filed a subsequent police report on Feb. 8, once, she says, she confirmed that Mariscal, a U.S. resident, did not have diplomatic immunity. In the report, she alleges that Mariscal pushed Craig's camera into her face approximately "four times," which resulted in her split lip.

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According to CUSD's Carter, the district and the adult school were bombarded with vitriolic e-mails and phone calls following the protest. "There was a safety concern," he says.

Reports of the Minutemen protests, with pictures and quotes, are crucial to the dissemination of their message: Illegal immigrants cause nothing but crime and trouble. The widely circulated narratives cast the Minutemen as heroes who often alert an unsuspecting institution to the crimes being committed on their church or school grounds by a "corrupt foreign government."

"The amount of hate mail and derogatory comments that has been directed at our school district and at the school is, No. 1, unnecessary and, No. 2, unneeded at this time," says Carter.

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