Vig­i­lante mili­tias roused by Trump’s call

Civil­ian groups pre­pare to move to border as pres­i­dent raises alarm over mi­grant car­a­van

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Metro - By Mary Lee Grant and Nick Miroff WASH­ING­TON P O ST

FALFURRIAS — Gun-car­ry­ing civil­ian groups and border vig­i­lantes have heard a call to arms in Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s warn­ings about threats to Amer­i­can se­cu­rity posed by car­a­vans of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants mov­ing through Mex­ico. They’re pack­ing cool­ers and tents, oil­ing ri­fles and tun­ing up ae­rial drones, with plans to form car­a­vans of their own and trail Amer­i­can troops to the border.

“We’ll ob­serve and re­port, and of­fer aid in any way we can,” said Shan­non McGauley, a bail bonds­man in the Dal­las sub­urbs who is pres­i­dent of the Texas Min­ute­men. McGauley said he was pre­par­ing to head for the Rio Grande in com­ing days.

“We’ve proved our­selves be­fore, and we’ll prove our­selves again,” he said.

McGauley and oth­ers have been roused by the pres­i­dent’s call to re­store or­der and de­fend the coun­try against what Trump has called “an in­va­sion,” as thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants ad­vance slowly through south­ern Mex­ico to­ward the U.S. border. Trump has in­sisted that “un­known Mid­dle Eastern­ers,” “very tough fighters,” and large num­bers of vi­o­lent crim­i­nals are trav­el­ing among the women, chil­dren and fam­i­lies head­ing north on foot.

The Texas Min­ute­men, ac­cord­ing to McGauley, have 100 vol­un­teers en route to the Rio Grande who want to help stop the mi­grants, with more likely on the way.

“I can’t put a num­ber on it,” McGauley said. “My phone’s been ring­ing non­stop for the last seven days. You got other mili­tias, and hus­bands and wives, peo­ple com­ing from Ore­gon, In­di­ana. We’ve even got two from Canada.”

And yet, the prospect of armed vig­i­lantes show­ing up be­side thou­sands of U.S. troops — along with Border Pa­trol agents, po­lice of­fi­cers and mi­grants — is con­sid­ered se­ri­ous enough that mil­i­tary plan­ners have is­sued warn­ings to Army com­man­ders.

Ac­cord­ing to mil­i­tary plan­ning doc­u­ments ob­tained by Newsweek, the mil­i­tary is con­cerned about the ar­rival of “un­reg­u­lated mili­tia mem­bers self-de­ploy­ing to the border in al­leged sup­port” of U.S. Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion.

The as­sess­ment es­ti­mates that 200 mili­tia mem­bers could show up. Manuel Padilla Jr., the top Border Pa­trol of­fi­cial in the agency’s Rio Grande Val­ley sec­tor, the na­tion’s busiest for il­le­gal cross­ings, said he has not is­sued any in­struc­tions to agents in the field or to landown­ers whose prop­er­ties are ad­ja­cent to the river. But he plans to meet with com­mu­nity mem­bers next week, he said, to ad­dress their con­cerns.

“We don’t have any spe­cific in­for­ma­tion about the mili­tias,” said Padilla, reached by phone along the border. “We have seen them in the past, and when things start get­ting really busy, we have to make sure to let the com­mu­nity know they’re out there.”

“But they’re do­ing that on their own,” Padilla said.

Michael Vick­ers, a vet­eri­nar­ian and rancher who lives an hour north of the border in Falfurrias, said that he will not let mili­tia mem­bers from out­side the area onto his prop­erty and that he doubts most area landown­ers would trust out­siders.

“They are a bunch of guys with a big mouth and no sub­stance to them,” said Vick­ers, a Repub­li­can who heads the 300-strong Texas Border Vol­un­teers. The group doesn’t call it­self a mili­tia, al­though it pa­trols ranch­land to in­ter­cept mi­grants who hike through the brush to at­tempt to avoid Border Pa­trol check­points. The group uses ATVs, night-vi­sion gog­gles, spot­lights and trained dogs.

“We’ve al­ready talked to a bunch of landown­ers who wanted to know if we’ll be op­er­at­ing if the Border Pa­trol can’t be there to keep their prop­erty from be­ing van­dal­ized and their crops from be­ing messed up.”

“We’re ready to move,” he said.

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