Armed militia groups head to the border, sparking military concerns

Armed bands of civilian militia members are traveling to the southern U.S. border, where President Donald Trump has ordered thousands of active-duty troops to rebuff the approaching migrant caravan.

About “200 unregulated armed militia members [are] currently operating along the southwest border,“ says a planning document for Army commanders leading the 5,200 troops Trump has deployed at the border, according to Newsweek. The groups “operate under the guise of citizen patrols supporting” border officials, the document says, pointing out “reported incidents of unregulated militias stealing National Guard equipment during deployments.”

The U.S. Border Patrol late last month warned landowners in Texas to expect “possible armed civilians” to come onto their property because of the caravan, The Associated Press reported.

Militia groups ― heavily armed organizations that train members in paramilitary techniques ― often are right-wing extremist organizations. The Southern Poverty Law Center identified 689 active anti-government extremist groups in 2017. Of those, 273 were militias.

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One militia group, the Texas Minutemen, has 100 volunteers heading to the Rio Grande to block migrants now traveling through Mexico, leader Shannon McGauley told The Washington Post. The untrained volunteers plan to dig in along border spots with camouflage clothing, flak jackets, semiautomatic weapons, night-vision goggles and aerial drones with thermal sensing equipment to locate people in darkness, McGauley said. They’ll also come with camping gear and food supplies.

Militia leaders echo Trump’s pre-election, anti-migrant hyperbole that the migrants are “invaders” and that the borders must be protected. Photos and videos of the caravan show large numbers of mothers and children.

“We believe our nation is under attack by foreigners who refuse to accept the rule of law on how to become a citizen in the United States,” Howie Morgan, the political action director of the Minuteman Project militia, told Newsweek. He said he hoped to see “thousands” of civilians join troops to defend the border.

The Minuteman Project — in conjunction with the Texas Minutemen — issued an “urgent” call to action last week on its website urging members to set up camp along the border for 90 days.

The organizations are “calling out to everyone to converge on the U.S.-Mexico border immediately to support U.S. law enforcement and military organizations already there. Your presence is needed everywhere along the 2,000-mile border from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas,” the website says.

The Minuteman Project website, warning of a “large number of criminals” crossing the border, also encourages people to establish their own armed groups. “Several U.S. law enforcement officers and civilians have been murdered by international bandits in these areas,” the website declares.

The group calls on volunteers to follow the law and confer with law enforcement before taking any action. “We want survivors, not casualties, so proceed with extreme caution!” It also urges members to “use extreme caution when confronted by mainstream media. “They are not your friends. They work for their globalist, open-border $$-sponsors-$$,” says the site.

The Patriots of the Constitution militia put out a call last month for a “full deployment” to make a “stand to secure our border from a mob of migrating immigrants,” the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Trump said last week that rocks thrown by immigrants should be considered a firearm, and that the military would fight back. He later said he was suggesting that rock-throwing immigrants would be arrested — not shot.

The Nigerian army posted a video of Trump equating rocks with rifles on its Twitter account as an apparent defense of troops shooting some 45 protesters a week ago.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.