While it may seem like they could be members of Al Qaeda or ISIS, the masked men with rifles currently marching through Texas are homegrown. They make up a growing number of anti-immigrant hardliners who have taken up arms and headed to the border to personally, but unofficially, fight in the war against undocumented immigrants.
For several months, rumors have been spreading near the border that there were armed men close by hoping to take matters into their own hands. Recently, the San Antonio Express-News obtained more than 30 photos that confirmed it. Men, some masked, others with faces blurred out, have set up camps in the Texas desert where they practice military operations, grow their arsenal and go on daily hunts for the “illegals” they despise.
All their actions are unsanctioned by the U.S. government and Texas law enforcement, although in some instances Border Patrol has been seen lending aid to the groups.
A Democratic state senator, Leticia Van de Putte has been outspoken in her condemnation of the groups.
According to the San Antonio Express-News:
“Local law enforcement and federal Border Patrol agents have been clear. The presence of these outside independent militia groups does nothing to secure the border; it only creates an unsafe situation for law enforcement officials that are protecting our communities. Unfortunately, the vile rhetoric of my opponent inspires misguided efforts,” said Van de Putte, who is running against state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, for lieutenant governor.
In a statement released Monday, the Texas Democratic Party called on Patrick and Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor, to denounce the “armed vigilantes.”
So far not a single Republican official has done so. When Gov. Rick Perry was asked if he supported the militia groups, he dodged the question. In some ways, he has already answered. Perry has been dogged in his pursuit of militarilizing the border. Recently, he requested over 1,000 Texas National Guard members to lend a hand on the border. Further, he’s been spending every opportunity he can posing for pictures along the border next to guns. Other prominent Republicans have echoed the message. The message is clear: only firearms can stop the child refugees from coming and Texas Governor Rick Perry and the Republican leadership will lead the charge.
Responding to that not-so-subtle call-to-arms, the militia groups – many of which are sovereign citizens and “veterans” of the Bundy Ranch standoff – have flooded in. They believe the country is being invaded and it is up to them, not the government, to stop it.
In several of the pictures, militiamen can be seen standing under a modified American flag with the roman numeral three on it. That is a reference to the anti-government extremist movement referred to as “The Oath Keepers” or the “Three Percenters.” Both groups have watched their memberships explode after Obama’s election, fueled by racism and the specter of “socialism” which they believe is taking over their country.
As the Anti-Defamation League explains:
Formed in March 2009 and led by Stewart Rhodes, a Nevada lawyer, the Oath Keepers encourage members of the military and law enforcement to pledge not to follow certain hypothetical “orders” from the federal government. These “orders,” including one “to put American citizens in detention camps,” and another “to disarm the American people,” echo longstanding conspiracy theories embraced by anti-government extremists, who claim that the U.S. government is creating a police state. The Oath Keepers try to appeal to military and law enforcement personnel by reminding them that they swore an oath to defend the Constitution “from all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and suggesting that now is the time to live up to that oath by resisting an allegedly tyrannical government.
The Three Percenters, formed in late 2008, are a loosely organized movement centered around an obscure, and not particularly accurate, Revolutionary War “statistic” that claimed that only 3% of the American population during the Revolutionary War participated as combatants in the war. The group asserts that they are a modern counterpart to that mythical 3% of American Revolutionary-era patriots and also represent the three percent of the population of American gun owners “who will not disarm.”
Ostensibly, the group wants to work towards promoting limited government and libertarianism, but they’ve also set their sights on infiltrating the U.S. military in order to better be equipped to resist a government takeover should the need arise. Treasonous? Maybe. Dangerous? Certainly.
And now they are camped out along America’s border.
Pictures via San Antonio Express-News