Minuteman Project volunteers proved their critics wrong this past weekend.

In just a couple of nights on volunteer patrol along the Mexican border in Arizona, minutemen helped federal Border Patrol agents arrest 18 people trying to enter the country illegally. And they did so without violence.

While 18 arrests may not seem like many, their efforts have shown the average citizen can play an important role in preventing illegal immigration, and ultimately may play a role in helping secure our nation's borders.

It's unfortunate that citizens have to volunteer to patrol our border, but in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, who can blame them for wanting a more secure perimeter?

Last week before the "minutemen" hit the border, government officials and critics were calling Minuteman Project volunteers gun-toting vigilantes, a label organizers and volunteers rejected.

At that time, they said they were simply planning to assist authorities by notifying them of illegal entry activities such as immigration and smuggling.

That's exactly what they did during this past weekend's trial run. There was no violence, and minutemen simply contacted Border Patrol agents when they spotted individuals trying to illegally enter the country.

Cochise County, Arizona, Sheriff's Office authorities said Sunday the volunteers were keeping the peace despite concerns some armed minutemen might confront individuals trying to cross the border undetected.

We commend the efforts of the minutemen, and their restraint.

If this past weekend is representative of how the project will work, then maybe the Minuteman Project is a worthwhile endeavor. But only time will tell.

Minuteman officials say about 200 people will be in place along the border this evening, the first "official" night of volunteer patrols. That's less than half of the 450 volunteers who gathered Friday to familiarize themselves with the border and illegal immigration tactics.

Organizers say the balance of the volunteers will share duties throughout the month, but they have so far declined to say how many minutemen will be in place in a given evening.

Volunteers say they are targeting the Arizona-Mexico border because more than 51 percent of illegal immigrants caught last year tried to cross into the U.S. at remote locations there. And other areas of the country's 2,000-mile southern border are more heavily patrolled.

Organizers say their goal is to merely assist Border Patrol agents in their efforts to secure the frontier.

Let's hope it stays that way.

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