Armed Militias Massing at Border to 'Protect' America From Small Children

Armed with semi-automatic weapons, 10 vigilante groups are prowling the Texas-Mexico border.

Photo Credit: Vladyslav Starozhylov/Shutterstock

Militia groups are starting to line the border between Texas and Mexico to protect the region from an influx of refugee children, despite warnings from state lawmakers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stand down. 

The militias have provided dozens of pictures to the media of their members “guarding” the border while carrying what appear to be semi-automatic rifles. The members in the photos are wearing tactical gear and military-style balaclavas that shield their identities (other photos show militia members with their faces blurred out).

Reportedly, 10 or more militias have descended on the border while child refugees from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala continue to make the long trek and crossing to the United States. So far, an estimated 50,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the border.

The invasion of children has inspired groups such as The Oathkeepers, Three Percenters, and Patriots to rally their members to the border. They are reportedly lining the border between El Paso and The Rio Grande.

Texas State Senator Leticia Van de Putte has condemned the actions of militia groups,  criticizing them for "pointing guns at children.”

Van de Putte, a San Antonio Democrat who is running for Lieutenant Governor, said, “The presence of these outside independent militia groups does nothing to secure the border; it only creates an unsafe situation for law enforcement officials that are protecting our communities. Unfortunately, the vile rhetoric of my opponent inspires misguided efforts."

Van de Putte was criticizing statements by State Senator Dan Patrick, a Houston Republican, who is also running for lieutenant governor. Patrick has declared the children to be a “safety threat” and says gang members and potential terrorists could exploit the porous border.

In a statement released yesterday, Texas Democrats called on Patrick and Attorney General Greg Abbott — the GOP gubernatorial nominee — to denounce the "armed vigilantes." Abbott and Patrick have yet to respond.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is warning that militias that rallied behind scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy this Spring may also be focusing on the immigrant-child crisis as it intensifies. Mark Potok, a senior fellow at SPLC, says it’s “possible that people at the Bundy ranch are headed toward the Texas border now."

Potok says that militias are now posting online messages urging their followers to deploy in response to the crisis. "We don’t know if these calls to go to the border are going to get much response at all,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s very unclear if this is just talk or actually developing.”

One militia, led by a 37-year-old truck driver named Chris Davis, began to deploy along the border earlier this month. Davis was seen in a YouTube video advising followers to aggressively confront those attempting a border crossing.

"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,'" Davis says in the video that was posted on his channel.

The video has reportedly been removed after a McAllen, Texas newspaper highlighted itearlier this month. Davis is now claiming that his militia, Secure Our Border, only intends to supplement law-enforcement efforts along the border despite law enforcement officials in Texas saying their help is not needed in the Rio Grande Valley.

“There’s nothing malicious, there’s no malicious intent—every person is vetted,” Davis told The Los Angeles Times. “We’re just here to serve freedom, liberty and national sovereignty.”

Davis was discharged from the U.S. Army in 2001 under less-than-honorable conditions to avoid court-martial proceedings, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Davis is also part of Open Carry Texas, and was part of a group that protested with rifles outside a San Antonio Starbucks restaurant last year. He and two other men were cited by San Antonio police for disorderly conduct.

The SPLC says that Cliven Bundy’s standoff against federal agents earlier this year is inspiring more militia actions and violent events.

“The Bundy standoff has invigorated an extremist movement that exploded when President Obama was elected, going from some 150 groups in 2008 to more than 1,000 last year,” says the SPLC report, entitled War in the West.

Bundy, a 68-year old rancher, owed more than $1 million to the U.S. for refusing to pay fees for grazing on federal land. When a federal court recognized his delinquency, the Bureau of Land Management hired cowboys to round up Bundy’s cattle to pay his debt.

The government’s action created a tense standoff between Bundy and hundreds of heavily-armed followers who turned their weapons on government agents. As the situation reached a tipping point, federal agents backed down in order to avoid bloodshed. 

Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor of Alternet who also served as deputy editor of Consumer Reports. He was one of the first journalists to sound the alarm over the extreme dangers of fracking and expanded crude-by-rail transportation. His articles on technology, green cars, energy, water and sustainability have appeared in several publications, including Car and Driver, Playboy, Salon and Raw Story. Twitter: @cliffweathers.