As tens of thousands of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America fled across the Texas-Mexico border earlier this year, loosely organized citizen militias cropped up to provide the border security they believe the U.S. government failed to deliver.
Reuters published a report Wednesday based on a visit to this month to the Brownsville, Texas camp of one militia group called the Patriots. One Patriots member and Army veteran, who goes by the name “Huggie Bear,” told Reuters that he felt his group was misunderstood:
The men bristled at the terms “militia” and “vigilante.”
“Everybody has this bad taste in their mouth about ‘militias.’ They think we’re out here trying to smoke people and kill them as soon as they cross the border. Which obviously, is not the case,” said “Huggie Bear,” a 25-year-old former U.S. Army infantry team leader.
“Our goal here is to try to deter them from coming. They see us, they don’t know who we are, so that kind of scares people away for a while.”
The trigger-happy perception of militia members that “Huggie Bear” dismisses was illustrated earlier this summer by Chris Davis, identified as the commander of another militia group called Operation Secure Our Border. Davis reportedly posted a video to YouTube earlier this summer warning undocumented immigrants that they would “be shot” for crossing the border.
“You see an illegal. You point your gun dead at him, right between his eyes, and you say, ‘Get back across the border or you will be shot,'” Davis reportedly said in the video, which was taken down.
It also so happens that “Huggie Bear” belongs to the same militia as the man who was shot at by a border patrol agent earlier this month, according to Reuters. An agent who was chasing a group of immigrants spotted the man, John Frederick Forester, holding a gun near the Rio Grande. Local TV station KRGV later reported that Forester was a convicted felon.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.