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After gathering steam and garnering loads of media attention on the launch of the Minuteman Project, interest from average citizens in forming volunteer patrols to watch the border has waned drastically, the Orange County Register reports.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which refers to the militia-type organizations that sprung up in 2005 and 2006 as “nativist extremist” groups, reports that such vigilante actions lately have been “collapsing under the weight of bad press, organizational disarray, and the co-optation of the movement’s concerns by state legislatures passing draconian legislation targeting foreigners.” The number of operating nativist extremist groups counted by the Center peaked at 319 in 2010, but has since fallen to 184.

Turning points include many groups shifting to adopt a more broadly anti-government stance, often joining up with local Tea Party movements, and the 2009 execution-style murders of a Latino man and his 9 year-old daughter at the hands of Minuteman Shawna Forde and two accomplices, which cast a heavy shadow on the volunteer border watchers, who are often armed.

The Campo border region in San Diego’s East County is cited by the Register as an example of how the movement has faded.

“You’re talking to the Lone Ranger, okay?” a man who goes only by the name Gadget Dan Minuteman tells the paper of his activity in the area. Where as many as 30-40 people a day would travel from as far off as Los Angeles and southern Riverside County to volunteer, most have burned out or moved on to other causes.

Gadget Dan spends his days picking up trash left by human and drug smugglers, repairing holes in fences along the border, and destroying markers he believes are used by guides for navigating through the chaparaal.

The recent economic downturn, along with increased monitoring activity by federal agents along the southern border, has resulted in some of the lowest number of migrant apprehensions in decades.

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