A state lawmaker in Texas is praising the arrival of militias along the US border, which he says are deterring drug cartels and illegal immigrants from the area. However, the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has rebuked the groups for their presence.
Republican state Rep. Doug Miller toured the Rio Grande Valley in Texas on Monday with state police, riding in a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) gun boat and in a helicopter near McAllen ‒ the epicenter of the battle between anti-immigration and human rights advocacy groups during the recent influx of illegal immigrants along the Texas-Mexico border. Miller told the San Antonio Express-News that he spoke with DPS officers about the militias. The tour was part of an "informational trip" to observe the "cartel's system to get people and drugs across the border," Miller said.
The three-term state representative said the militias "are private citizens and they have a right to be there and a right to bear arms if they have permission of the land owner."
"What I was told is (the militia groups) are on private property, helping ranchers and owners to keep illegals coming onto or through their property ... and there haven't been any problems," Miller told the Express-News. "When (the groups) are coming into an area, they've been very forthright, letting (law enforcement) know they were there so there wouldn't be some type of negative interaction."
— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) July 10, 2014
The militias began organizing in mid-June. By the end of July, more than 10 independently operated private militia groups were patrolling the border between Texas and Mexico, ignoring calls from Customs and Border Patrol to back off and inviting criticism from local lawmakers. In more than 30 images obtained by the Express-News, “dozens of members” can be seen, sometimes talking to CBP agents. In one photo, a CBP agent can be seen giving directions to armed militia members operating a vehicle.
Barbie Rogers, who runs the Patriot Information Hotline – a 24-hour conference line that the militias are using to coordinate their efforts – told VICE News that 14 groups have taken up patrol along the border from Texas to California, with more on the way.
“We need people out here to help control the influx of people,” she said. “As of a month ago, there were 130,000 people that have crossed the border illegally since January. Our economy cannot handle that. In the past month, we’ve added another 30 or 40,000 [undocumented immigrants].”
In June,CBP spoke out against those gathering around the border aiming to keep watch over immigrants attempting to cross the border. The agency said 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.”
Miller said the influx of Central American children illegally crossing the border us due to Mexican drug cartels that are "helping and encouraging people to send their children" to the United States.
"It is all part of the strategy of the cartels to cause distractions for border patrol and for our law enforcement so they can continue or enhance their drug operation," Miller continued, adding that the cartels are the root of violence and poverty in the Central American countries.
Between October 1, 2013 and July 31, 2014, nearly 63,000 unaccompanied alien children (0-17 years of age) were apprehended along the southwestern border of the US, according to the latest statistics from CBP – a 100 percent increase over the same time in fiscal year 2013. During that same period, agents also apprehended almost 63,000 family units – a 471 percent increase over FY2013. There have been close to 230,000 “other than Mexicans (OTMs)” entering the country over the last nine months, a designation that makes it difficult for the federal government to quickly deport the immigrants back to their home countries in Central America.
The militias are there to assist CBP agents who are overwhelmed by the massive spike in undocumented immigrants this year, leaders of the groups have said. Minutemen Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist told KPHO-TV that he doesn’t want his militiamen to act aggressively. Rather, he said, his group will only assist federal border agents.
“You do not put a hand on anyone, you do not talk to anyone, you do not confront anyone,” Gilchrist told the station. “You report to Border Patrol.”
“With all the talk of comprehensive immigration reform and amnesty coming from Washington, so many people illegally crossing the border have it in their minds that ‘I need to get away,’ and whoever is standing in their way is going to suffer their wrath,” Chris Cabrera, a Border Patrol agent for nearly 13 years and a vice president in the National Border Patrol Council Local 3307, said in an interview with WND.
“The morale is not there and the Border Patrol service is not behind its agents,” Cabrera said.
Although neither Texas Gov. Rick Perry nor Attorney General Greg Abbott (who is currently a candidate for Texas governor) have mentioned the militias ‒ which may signal tacit approval of the groups ‒ Texan Democrats, some local officials, and the CBP have spoken out against them.
“Local law enforcement and Border Patrol agents have been clear. 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,” state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a Democrat from San Antonio, said in a statement.
Catastrophe on TX/MX border. Federal government must fulfill constitutional duty and secure border!!! pic.twitter.com/dL9leCqxv8
— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) June 23, 2014
But Miller credits the militias ‒ along with the 1,000 National Guard troops that Perry activated in July to join the state’s Department of Public Safety in an effort to combat human smuggling across the country’s southern border ‒ with deterring immigrants and cartel members.
"We have secured state resources in the absence of federal assistance," Miller said. “It is encouraging to me, as a state lawmaker, that we have sent professional personnel to the border. We'll never have 100 percent secure border, but I think with what we've done, we've sent a very clear message to Mexico that we are not going to accept this."