Minutemen and other civilian border watchers on a ranch near Indio, Tex., in 2006. (Eric Gay/AP)
The immigration situation is already messy. Now an armed Texas militia is planning to make a move for the U.S.-Mexico border, according to news reports.
Members said the goal is not to interfere with law enforcement but to help secure the border and slow the surge of undocumented immigrants illegally entering the country.
The group, called Operation Secure Our Border-Laredo, was identified to the San Antonio Express-News as “Patriots,” “Oathkeepers” and “Three Percenters,” a reference to the 3 percent of colonists who took up arms against England during the Revolutionary War. Organizers are using social media and a 24-hour hotline to recruit and mobilize armed volunteers to send to Laredo, Tex., within the coming weeks.
It’s uncertain how many people belong to the group or how many might actually show up.
“We’re here to supplement and be where law enforcement is not and help them support the border,” Chris Davis, the 37-year-old listed leader, told the Los Angeles Times.
“There’s nothing malicious, there’s no malicious intent — every person is vetted. We’re just here to serve freedom, liberty and national sovereignty.” Davis said once the group has enough manpower, it will do its duty in a “legal and lawful manner.”
It’s quite a different tactic than the one Davis announced via a YouTube video in which he allegedly said: “You see an illegal. You point your gun dead at him, right between his eyes, and you say, ‘Get back across the border or you will be shot,’” the McAllen Monitor reported last week. Davis told the Express-News he removed the video after it was taken out of context “by a newspaper that supports amnesty.”
Thousands of migrants, including large numbers of children, have been crossing into the U.S. on a regular basis since the fall, fleeing violence in Central America.
The situation President Obama called a humanitarian crisis has moved many lawmakers, law enforcement and local residents to come up with their own solutions.
Last week, hundreds of California protesters took matters into their own hands, forming a human blockade and shutting down access to a Border Patrol station near Murrieta as agents were trying to transport three busloads of immigrant children and families. The protests transpired after Murrieta Mayor Alan Long urged locals to fight immigration transfers. The buses were forced to reroute to San Diego.
On Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Los Angeles Police will no longer hold immigrants for possible deportation without either a court order or an arrest warrant.
“The federal government is in charge of enforcing federal immigration laws — not us at the local level,” he said. “That responsibility can’t be forced onto local law enforcement officials who already have stretched budgets.”
The situation has some Southern lawmakers — from both parties — nervous.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) told Fox News he’s worried the president’s decision to not visit the border while he’s in Texas this week will become his “Katrina moment.”
Cuellar was referring to the wave of criticism that came over the presidential administration after George W. Bush was photographed peering at the Hurricane Katrina wreckage from Air Force One instead of landing the plane and meeting people on the ground. Years later, Bush told NBC’s Matt Lauer it was a “huge mistake.”
And Gov. Rick Perry (R-Tex.) told ABC News’s “This Week” the federal government is “just absolutely failing.”
“We either have an incredibly inept administration, or they’re in on this somehow or another,” he said. “I mean, I hate to be conspiratorial, but I mean, how do you move that many people from Central America across Mexico and then into the United States without there being a fairly coordinated effort?”
A day later, the White House took a tougher stand, saying it expects to deport most unaccompanied minors who enter the country illegally through the Southern border.
In any case, the Texas militia is ready to do its part.
Members said the FBI in Laredo and local law enforcement are aware of the group’s plan, though. Brenda Medina, spokesman for the sheriff’s office in Webb County, Tex., told the Times sheriff’s officials have no plans to meet with them. And U.S. Customs and Border Protection told the Express-News it does not “endorse or support any private group or organization from taking matters into their own hands as it could have disastrous personal and public safety consequences.”
Among those who have joined the effort is Rick Light, who leads a militia in Rocksprings, Tex. He clarified that the militia’s plan isn’t a “‘go in guns blazing’ operation.”
“There’s a big interest throughout the United States to come and assist,” Light told the Times. “This is what happens when our politicians ignore the letter of the law.”