The U.S.-Mexico Border Has Long Been a Magnet for Far-Right Vigilantes

When the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Grand Magic David Duke revealed plans to hike up and down nearly 900 miles of the U.S. border in an effort to track down illegal immigrants, the uproar was swift. Duke said they would inform any border patrol station they encountered of their plans to report undocumented immigrants.

“We feel this rising tide washing over our border is going to affect our culture,” he told reporters. “All the politicians talk about the problem but do nothing. The politicians in Washington are only interested in potential votes.”

The Klan was ultimately unsuccessful in preventing cross-border crossings in 1970s. However, this ordeal launched a history of modern armed vigilantism, which continues on the southern frontier today. Armed groups still appear in the borderlands searching for migrants and harassing the communities along the line.
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Duke defends his group during the press conference held at San Antonio’s airport at that time. He claimed 173 Klansmen were already conducting patrols.

Tensions escalated. The Brown Berets militant Chicano group threatened to raise 1,500 Chicano members in a battle with the white supremacists. At the border crossings, counter-protesters appeared. The affair led to a diplomatic spat with Mexico. When then-Mexican Foreign Secretary Santiago Roel warned he would “protest if there is any case of aggression,” the U.S. ambassador to Mexico at the time, Patrick Lucey, promised the Klansmen wouldn’t be allowed to make good on their plans.

However, the operation was a complete flop. Some Klansmen drove around the borderlands with a sign that said “Klan Border Watch” taped to the door of their sedan. Although border agents reported that they had seen KKK members near certain Texas borders, there was no sign of any real vigilante activity. “I believe we may have gotten one Klan call last night, but I’m not even sure of that one,” Jim Curr, the then-assistant Border Patrol chief in McAllen, told reporters the day after the Klan patrol kicked off. Of violent incidents, he added, “There’s been nothing. And I doubt seriously if there will be.”

David Duke patrols the California-Mexico border in a vehicle marked,
Bettmann Archive/Getty ImagesDavid Duke patrols the California-Mexico border in a vehicle marked, “Klan Border Watch” in 1977.

The Klan’s border operation wasn’t the country’s first armed backlash against migration. The 19ThThe Know Nothings were a group of nativists who had set on fire Catholic churches and occupied neighborhoods in Ireland and Germany from Philadelphia, Ky. to Louisville, Ky., for the past century. Know Nothing associates executed Chinese immigrant in California during the 1850s. The U.S. government sent so-called “soldiers” to California in the early 1900s. “Chinese catchers”To capture Asian migrants trying to cross the U.S. border. Texas Rangers and similar militia-like groups were arming upTo stop them crossing. The Border Patrol was established by the United States in 1924 to stop migrants entering the country.

The frontier vigilantism eventually turned around. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Texas Knights of the KKK leader Louis Beam, a Vietnam war veteran who had helped organize and promote Duke’s border stunt, established paramilitary camps around Texas and trained As young as eight years of age, children can be involved in the activities.In the use of deadly guerilla warfare techniques he was taught while fighting against communist rebels abroad. He rallied disgruntled fishermen and white-clad Klansmen against Vietnamese refugees, who were legally settled in Texas and had turned to shrimping for a way to survive. The white fishermen marched and the Vietnamese skiffs were set ablaze. Klansmen invaded the town with semiautomatic rifles. Beam Promised to the Vietnamese Refugees “a lot better fight here than they got from the Viet Cong.”

Beam had to close his five Texas paramilitary bases after the Southern Poverty Law Center and Vietnamese fishermen sued the Knights of the KKK. Beam’s armed groups packed up their camps, but anti-immigrant militias were here to stay.

Continue reading: Vigilante Violence: The U.S. has a long history

Through the 1990s the majority of the militia movements trained their weapons against the federal government. After the 1992 Rudy Ridge attack in Idaho, the movement rebelled against the government. This culminated in a gun battle that saw Randy Weaver’s wife and her son as well as the Deputy U.S. Marshal killed. William Francis Degan, Marshal. Marshal William Francis Degan was killed in the siege that took place at their compound for 51 days. After the federal raid, gun battles brokeout and flames were started. Several Branch Davidians died along with four agents.

The early 2000s saw vigilantes set their sights on the south again. Armed with paramilitary gear, they pushed their guns through rough borderlands to find illegal immigrants. Sometimes, they even detained them. These vigilante missions often led to violence.

Bush’s presidency aimed at tightening security along both the north and south borders following the September 11th attacks. Bush promised to promote realistic immigration policies, and finally condemned desert gallivanters. “I’m against vigilantes in the United States of America,” Bush said at a press conference with the Mexican president in March 2005. “I’m for enforcing the law in a rational way.”

These groups however had other plans. Rescue Ranch, an armed group, had found a Salvadoran couple close to the Texas-Mexico border in 2003. They chased them down and took them into custody at gunpoint. The pair were defeated by a militiaman with a single gunshot.

Members of Arizona Border Recon
John Moore/Getty ImagesArizona Border Recon members at the U.S. Mexico border close to Arivaca (Ariz.) on November 14, 2016.

The number of antiimmigrant groups grew, however. a sharp surge in activity after Barack Obama’s election. Obama might have been given the nickname “deporter-in-chief” among immigrant rights groups, but the far right wasn’t concerned with facts. Obama was supported by Rick Perry (Texas governor at the time), who claimed that Obama had been lied to. “orchestrated” the arrival of undocumented children, and false claims that Obama himself wasn’t an American-born citizen, border vigilantes seized the paranoia of the time. Some militias presented themselves only as conservatives or patriots while others were well-documented members of neo-Nazi outfits. The SPLC was founded in 2005. It was reported that neo Nazis from the National Alliance were responsibleAlthough he had broken into the Minuteman Project to stop immigrants, hardline white supremacists were more likely to try and latch onto the border militias. J.T. J.T.

Two murders were committed by rogue antiimmigrant militiamen of Southern Arizona in May 2009. Led by a Washington émigré named Shawna Forde, they planned to rob a local drug dealer, sell his stash, and use the funds to buy more arms and beef up their border patrols. The FBI had been tipped off about the group’s plans, but nothing was done to stop them. The group disguised itself as Border Patrol on May 30, and they arrived at Raul Flores Jr., Arivaca’s home. Arivaca is a tiny community located 12 miles from Arizona-Mexico Border. They didn’t find much money, but they shot and killed Flores and his nine-year-old daughter, Brisenia.

The border vigilante movement grew throughout the Obama years. The profiles of some groups were published in newspapers and magazines across the nation. They continued to detain and hunt immigrants crossing into the country because of their jingoism. In 2014, ATF agents in Brownsville, Texas, nabbed Kevin “K.C.” Massey, a Texas militiaman who, along with others, had spent months detaining migrants. After he and another man had been involved in an armed standoff with a Border patrol agent, the ATF found in Massey’s motel room what they believed to be bombmaking materials and thousands of rounds of ammunition. After being found guilty of felony in possession, Massey was sentenced to life imprisonment. But, once released, he continued his escape and threatened federal agents with an armed shootout. The manhunt came to an end when Massey shot and killed himself in East Texas’s Van Zandt County in December 2019.

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Donald Trump’s administration is one of most anti-immigrant. Border vigilantism has reached fever pitch. Trump has promised to deport all illegal immigrants and build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico frontier. When the midterm elections came in fall 2018, the president drummed up widespread fear over a so-called caravan of refugees and migrants heading toward the border, deeming it an “invasion.” Unsurprisingly, militias from around the country saw his rhetoric as a war cry and flocked to the southern frontier.

New militias and vigilantes appeared in Arivaca (Ariz.) around that time. This reopened old wounds within the community. Although many locals rallied around to drive the armed groups from Arivaca, some militiamen still remain. Arizona Border Recon also established a station in the area. Although Arizona Border Recon disputes the “militia” label, there’s hardly a better word for a group of civilians that arm up and go on patrols of the borderlands.

Larry Hopkins, his United Constitutional Patriots arm group and a group of immigrants were able to detain a number of migrants from New Mexico in April 2019. The FBI stated that Hopkins, along with others, had been training to assassinate ex-President Obama, former Secretary Hillary Clinton, and billionaire Philanthropist George Soros.

Now, more than a year into Joe Biden’s presidency, the militia threat hasn’t gone away. As Republicans continue to use the anti-immigrant tactic Trump used so frequently, there have been increased suspicions at the southern border. Some armed groups are now heading south. South Texas Some vigilantesAlready, migrants have begun to appear in the areas they seek to cross. Southern Arizona Migrants are being targeted by far-right militia groups.QAnon-linked conspiracies fuelled the genesis of.

Sure, it’s easy to dismiss some of the vigilantes as grifters and clout-chasers, but in the decades since the Klansmen first carried out their patrols in the borderlands, the movement has taught us one thing: Ignoring them could cost lives.


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