In November of 2007, the volunteer border-watching organization (also dubbed an “anti-illegal immigration” organization) known as the Minutemen was granted a two-mile-long section along Interstate 5 in accordance with Caltrans' Adopt-A-Highway program.
The roadside area the Minutemen would be responsible for keeping clean was near the San Onofre immigration-and-customs checkpoint. Once the sign was posted, Latino rights groups complained and demanded Caltrans remove the sign.
Caltrans director Will Kempton heeded the protests, ordered the sign removed, and assigned a length of SR-52 near Santee to the Minutemen. The Minutemen sued. In June 2008, the Minutemen prevailed in their federal lawsuit. Caltrans was ordered to reinstitute the adopted section and repost the Minutemen’s sign. In August 2009, the judge ordered Caltrans to pay $157,000 in damages to the Minutemen.
Since the conflict began two years ago, the adoption program was shut down in San Diego County and throughout the state. A series of hearings began with the goal of instituting more strict policies as to what types of organizations could adopt a section of highway. San Diego organizations and businesses that wanted to adopt sections couldn’t proceed until the final policies were in place. The Sacramento-based hearings stalled. Several policy revisions had to clear other state-agency hurdles.
This month, Caltrans told its local offices to again accept applications for the program and seek new sponsors. According to a Caltrans worker who’s in charge of her district’s program in Northern California, not much will change with the new 74-page policy; it only protects Caltrans from getting their hand slapped by the courts.