Debate over the construction of a wall between the U.S.-Mexico border continues in Washington. But militia groups on the U.S. side have taken it upon themselves to make a stand on the wall debate. One such group believes the border needs more than just a wall.
CGTN’s Dan Williams spends time with one militia group and files this report.
On patrol on the Arizona-Mexico border, each person is heavily armed. This group is on the lookout for people illegally crossing the border. This is not the U.S. Army, but the Arizona Border Recon, founded by Tim Foley—a former army soldier and construction worker.
He describes the group as an “intelligence gathering company.” Others call it a militia.
“Without borders you end up losing your sovereignty,” said Foley. “You lose your identity, you lose your culture, you lose a lot of things. All we’re seeing is, the majority of it is drugs coming across and bad guys. I mean multiple deported, trying to sneak back in. This is the spot where people who don’t want to get caught come through.”
Today’s mission is to sweep through a number of pathways, just a few kilometers from the border. There is no wall in this part of Arizona—just a small fence. We stumble across some discarded carpet slippers used to cover footprints.
The group is organized and armed in case members run into danger. If they encounter anyone, they look to detain them.
“We give them food, water, and medical aid, just like humanitarians would do, but the only difference is we don’t allow him to keep walking,” said Foley.”But we don’t know who they are, so we turn them over to Border Patrol.”
After walking for some four-to-five hours, there has been plenty of evidence of recent activity, but the group has yet to find anyone.
The group uses secret cameras to record activity and gather evidence. One of those to join the patrol is Steve Ronnebeck.
“January 22, 2015, my son Grant was working at the one of the quick trips in Mesa. An illegal alien came in, wanted to buy cigarettes,” said Ronnebeck, an Arizona Border Recon member. “This man pulled a gun. Grant did everything he was supposed to do. He went ahead and offered up the cigarettes, gave them to him. And at that point, this man shot Grant point blank in the face.”
Steve says working with the group can make a difference.
“It does help me with my grief,” said Ronnebeck. “My goal is, I don’t want this to ever happen to another family. No parent should ever have to bury their child.”
Working at cross-purposes to Arizona Border Recon is Enrique Morones. Back in 1986, he founded the non-profit group ‘Border Angels.’ The group makes water drops in the desert in the hope of preventing migrant deaths.
He has little time for militia groups.
“Have these vigilantes, if they’re so interested in law enforcing the border, they should join the Border Patrol,” said Morones. “11,000 people have died because of that wall. The U.S.-Mexican border is 2,000 miles long. A third has a wall. Trump’s going to add more wall, but he will have more deaths.”
The U.S. Border Patrol said it does not endorse or support any private group or organization taking law enforcement into their own hands.
Given the rough terrain, Foley believes a wall will not be built here. He feels other methods need to be used.
“A border will help some. It will slow them down but it’s not going to stop them,” said Foley. “You’ve got to be down here all the time. I mean the Border Patrol does the best they can. But they don’t occupy the territory. They just drive in and drive out. They’re basically visiting the area.”
The debate over the U.S. southern border remains divisive, but in the meantime, groups like Arizona Border Recon—rightly or wrongly—are taking matters into their own hands.