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The Sunshine requests did turn up information that earned national attention, Mucci says. "One document that Frances got said that it had to be sovereign territory of Mexico," Mucci says. "Frances never really went public on any of this. I took the lead on that and shot my mouth off."
Now, SmartPort and the superhighway are common rallying points for fringe organizations and pundits who believe that the U.S. government is plotting a North American Union that would dissolve borders across the continent.
Semler's worries about Mexican trade were known in the Northland as well. Jim Rice, executive director of Northland Neighborhoods Inc., says Semler often attended the monthly "Meet Your Councilperson" sessions. Whenever Cooper broached the issue of trade, Rice says, Semler would respond with concerns about illegal immigration.
"All the traditional stereotypes and arguments were out on the table," Rice says. "There probably were people on both sides of the issue, saying their concerns were just confined to illegal immigration. But some of us know there's a lot of code involved in that kind of language."
It never got to the point where he had to cut off discussion or ask Semler to leave. "But it was uncomfortable," Rice says.
"She is a pretty reserved woman, who doesn't rant and rave and jump up and down," he says. "But I would say there was an edge on it."
That edge ripped open a seam in Kansas City.
Semler acknowledges that she wasn't exactly forthright with Funkhouser when, before he appointed her to the parks board, he asked whether she was a member of other organizations. She says she thought Funkhouser was interested in groups like the Clay County Rose Society and the neighborhood association, where she held a leadership position. Her membership in the Minutemen, she says, just didn't seem relevant.
"It wasn't something I had any power in other than being a member," she tells The Pitch. "I honestly didn't even think it was important."
To her, the civilian border patrol group offered a chance to add her voice to a growing movement opposing illegal immigration. She tells The Pitch she was impressed by the fact that the leader of the local Heart of America chapter, Ed Hayes, was a former police officer. She joined in 2006.
"I did some studying and thought they were decent people, and I still believe they are," she says.
But on June 12, after Funkhouser named his slate of parks commissioners and the Star asked Semler about her involvement in the Minutemen, she said she was "not active" in the local group.
That wasn't exactly forthright, either.
Semler had been at the August 30, 2006, inaugural meeting of what would become the Heart of America Chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. The Pitch was at that meeting, too; Hayes opened it with introductory remarks about the "illegal invasion" and how undocumented immigrants were taking American jobs, draining social services and committing crimes (To the Rescue, November 16, 2006). He called the Minutemen a nonviolent neighborhood watch intent on helping the proper authorities deal with a "terminal illness." During the meeting, Mucci gave a presentation on SmartPort, outlining the information that she and Semler had obtained from the city. When Mucci couldn't remember specifics, she asked Semler to fill in the details.
Two weeks later, Semler drove 60 miles to a sports-themed restaurant in Topeka for another Minuteman recruiting meeting with nearly identical rhetoric. During a question-and-answer period at the end of the presentation, Semler gave the crowd some reading recommendations. With her own hardbound copy in her lap, she suggested that any potential Minutemen who wanted the straight story on immigration should read State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America by conservative pundit Pat Buchanan.