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Militia Vigilante Groups Are Increasingly Patrolling The Border

Over the radio, comrades in Arizona Border Recon, a civilian patrol group, report finding 31 migrants near a spot where the border wall abruptly ends. Half a dozen members of the ragtag patrol have set up camp nearby. Their 64-year-old leader, Tim Foley, says it’s a corridor for smuggling people and drugs, an activity he and his group aim to disrupt. The encounter at the wall reflects the extremes to which perceptions of border insecurity are now driving the actions of both citizens and the government, according to the Los Angeles Times. Fueled by right-wing rhetoric about the border being overrun, long-established groups such as Foley’s are enjoying a resurgence, attracting volunteers from across the country and influencing the national debate on immigration. Apart from Foley’s group, anti-government militias active in Arizona and Texas have spread Q-Anon conspiracy theories and filmed themselves “intercepting” migrant children before delivering them to the U.S. Border Patrol, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy organization

At the same time, some Republicans in Congress have called for declaring drug cartels terrorist organizations and launching U.S. military strikes against them on Mexican territory. Self-proclaimed Proud Boys have also patrolled the border in southern Arizona since at least 2021, often in coordination with established militias. Foley said he and his men follow the law, acting more like “a neighborhood watch” than vigilantes. Foley has set up a network of “trail cams,” hiding the motion-triggered cameras on suspected smuggling routes. The footage captures a lot of desert wildlife — foxes, skunks, deer and raccoon-like coatimundis — along with occasional single-file processions of people wearing camo, backpacks, and carpet-soled slippers that are said to obscure footprints. He notes the time of the crossings and sends his men out for a few hours to temporarily shut down that route. “Under the Constitution, if the government cannot protect you, you have the right to protect yourself, and that’s what we’re doing,” Foley said. “If getting off the couch and doing something is extreme, then, sure, we’re extremists. Sitting on the couch thinking everything’s rainbows and unicorns? That’s asinine."


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