Skip to main content Accessibility

White Nationalists, Jan. 6 Protesters and QAnon: What You Need To Know About Border Vigilantes Along the Border

As some vigilantes in Arizona continue preying on migrants, Hatewatch has learned the identities of some these far-right extremists.

In July, the Southern Poverty Law Center sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security alerting them to the militia presence at the border. Through a review of social media content, Hatewatch has learned culprits have included at least two QAnon adherents, four Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol rioters, a snake oil salesman and an antisemitic militia group that is attempting to recruit on the forum of the notorious white nationalist site Stormfront.

White power ties

Michael "Lewis Arthur" Meyer
Michael "Lewis Arthur" Meyer stands outside a Veterans on Patrol camp. (Photo by Andrew Cullen)

As reported by Hatewatch in July, the antigovernment militia group Veterans on Patrol (VOP), led by Michael “Lewis Arthur” Meyer, continues to operate alongside vigilante organizations in Pima County, Arizona. The vigilante network Meyer dubbed the “border coalition” has attempted to intercept and detain migrants in the desert. A closer look at United People of America (UPA), one of the initial organizations affiliated with VOP, has revealed UPA’s attempts to recruit border volunteers from Stormfront, one of the earliest and most prominent white nationalist sites.

Unlike other vigilante groups in the Southwest, very little is known about UPA. Members have been deliberate about minimizing their digital footprint, sharing a handful of posts that quickly disappear on their Instagram accounts, under the names TheUPA333, Trinity_Ministry333, Order_of_Raven and BorderWarsAZ. They also post to their Telegram channel. This past summer, VOP and UPA appeared to be coordinating on social media, with both groups cross-posting social media content and using the same terms, such as “BorderWarsAZ,” and a supposed “ministry.”

Hatewatch has previously reported on the VOP Telegram channel BorderWarsAZ, resharing posts from UPA depicting its members engaging in paramilitary style training as well as target practice, shooting up a cardboard cutout spray-painted with the name “Juan.”

Posts by VOP have depicted border vigilantes detaining migrants. In May, UPA took things a step further when a user going by the name “UPA333” put out a call for volunteers on the “new members” page of the Stormfront website. The listing, which was accessed via a Google cache page, shows that the account appears to have been created in May and called for “TRUE nationalists” to join UPA’s border efforts, citing the supposed loss of the nation as a rallying cry to “stop these illegal aliens from entering our country.” The listing included the UPA telegram channel, a ProtonMail email address and phone number.

In extremist circles the term “nationalist” is typically closer aligned with the concepts associated with ultranationalists who seek to further the interests of only white Americans. A look at the UPA site confirms their beliefs in creating an ethnostate where only white people are deemed worthy of becoming citizens, owning land and voting.

The group’s logo is an upside-down letter “T” with a numeral “3” positioned at each of the points. That same logo can be found on the group’s Instagram page, where the UPA account has continued promoting nationalism while simultaneously pushing out antisemitic posts. This includes a post from July written in the Nazi typeface of Fraktur, characterized by its sharp bold letters, calling the U.S. a “globalist government.” According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the term “globalist” is frequently used as a “pejorative term for people whose interests in international commerce or finance ostensibly make them disloyal to the country in which they live.” The ADL goes on to explain that because of racist tropes that have historically associated Jewish people with money, the far right now uses the term “globalist” as a code word for someone of Jewish descent.

A look at the account’s Instagram stories reveals propaganda for the movie Hellstorm, a pro-Nazi Germany film directed by Kyle Hunt, a former Google employee turned white nationalist. The film falsely portrays Nazi Germany as the main victim of World War II. The UPA Instagram story claims: “Europe lost tens of millions of her bravest and brightest in an insane fratricidal conflict. The Allies defeated Germany so that Jews could run our banks, media, governments, and corporations, brainwash our children to hate themselves, flood our lands with hostiles (sic) invaders, and enslave us as their ‘goyim.’”

The UPA’s online content is full of antisemitic conspiracies, which falsely allege that Jewish people have taken over media, banking and other industries in an attempt to control global politics and commit “genocide” against white people. They attempt to stir up further resentment by amplifying the modern conspiracy accusing Jewish people of supporting immigration in order to replace white people in the United States and other Western countries with people from predominantly non-white nations.

Other Instagram stories on the UPA account include images identifying Jewish staff at major news outlets, including CNN, The New York Times, CBS News and NBC News. Staff appeared marked with the Star of David, with a dark blue star identifying individuals of Jewish descent and a light blue star marking the spouse of someone Jewish. Those same images are displayed on the UPA site along with a blog post that blames the staff members for allegedly covering up “the Jewish Power grab, and the Jewish crimes against humanity.”

This isn’t the first time that far-right extremists have targeted people with racist posts. By posting the images and identifying information, followers are able create a doxing campaign of harassment. In 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center, along with the firm Morrison, Sherwood, Wilson, & Deola, filed a lawsuit against Andrew Anglin, a neo-Nazi and founder of the Daily Stormer site, on behalf of Montana resident Tanya Gersh. Gersh and her family were doxed and harassed by extremists after their images were marked with the Star of David and posted online.

On Sept. 9, the UPA Telegram channel announced the launch of the group’s new website, issuing a special thanks to “UPA programmer” Sean Gugerty. The homepage greets users with a video of an unidentified UPA member standing in front of a U.S. flag while railing against the U.S. government, calling for people to join the UPA with the promise of instituting “peace, order and prosperity to all Americans.”

A look at the site reveals the UPA’s anti-immigrant beliefs and a prominent focus on spewing antisemitic hate with the site even featuring a section titled “Jews.” A click through that section of the website leads to blog posts with titles such as “Jewish Media,” “Jews in the Cabinet” and a post published on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, titled “Surviving the Jew World Order.”

“We have lost political control of our country to a group of people who HATE us! This plan devised by the Jews in power, is leading white people into an extinction level crisis.

The founding fathers of America certainly did not intend for us to be ruled by Jews, or to have America be inhabited by 3rd world people,” reads the UPA post shared on Sept. 11.

After comparing images and videos from the VOP Telegram channel to the video on the UPA website, it appears the unidentified UPA member has also engaged in border apprehensions alongside Meyer on at least two occasions.

The nativist beliefs fueling far-right activities near the border are “a glue that is binding the far-right,” says Devin Burghart, president and executive director of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR), a human rights group that combats extremism through education.

He sees the current situation in Arizona as “a continuing pattern of far-right activity on the border to detain migrants that goes all the way back to the 1970s when David Duke and Tom Metzger did their border control stunts down by the port at San Isidro. It has been a recurring theme on the far-right and white nationalist circles to try to raise the visibility of the immigration question. It is always used as a tool to create shock in the public and to give activists a kind of a way into armed confrontation with migrants and border crossers.”

QAnon leaders

QAnon sign at Capitol insurrection
A QAnon sign stands above a crowd of protesters during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

The man at the helm of the border coalition is Michael “Lewis Arthur” Meyer, a former QAnon devotee who has tried to distance himself from the movement while continually espousing QAnon conspiracy theories. Meyer, who is not a veteran, leads VOP, a vigilante group that is known for mischaracterizing migrants using racist tropes while claiming that humans, weapons and drugs are being trafficked into the U.S. via the Tohono O'odham Nation Reservation, a Native American reservation in Southern Arizona.

This belief that a Tribal Nation engages in the trafficking of migrants is a long-standing claim of some on the far right. Militias piggyback on anti-Indigenous messaging that insinuates that tribal governments are failing and that they even cooperate with domestic and international criminals. Figures such as Elaine Willman have made a career out of promoting the idea that tribal governments should be erased in the name of national security. Willman, who has written books on the topic of dismantling sovereign tribal nations, helped popularize conspiracy theories that frame immigration and tribal nations as two of the greatest existential threats to the U.S. In Arizona, Meyer and his ilk are peddling similar conspiracies as they conduct their daily operations around the Tohono O'odham Nation Reservation.

Today, VOP’s mission, which originated in Three Points, Arizona, has slowly spread to other areas such as Sasabe, Arizona. Since launching the “border coalition,” Meyer has continued to peddle the notion that the migrant crisis is being “orchestrated” by the Biden administration, as well as other QAnon conspiracies. These include the idea that the “deep state” is responsible for the crisis, that migrants are looking to harvest the organs of children and that the situation at the border constitutes an “invasion.”

Since Hatewatch first reported on the vigilante group and their interactions with Border Patrol, VOP has attempted to hide their extremism. They have taken down their website where they once claimed use of force against migrants would happen on rare occasions. In an attempt to clean up their image, VOP has shifted their messaging and now claims aims to portray their activities as being similar to those of Humane Borders, a faith-based humanitarian group that has been on the receiving end of harassment campaigns by Meyer and VOP .

Unlike Humane Borders, which operates a water-station system that provides clean water to migrants in the desert and is a nonprofit registered with the IRS, VOP prides itself on not being a registered organization. In a promo video from June, Meyer claimed his group “won’t be filing for a nonprofit.” The same sentiment is reiterated in a video from August that was uploaded to the Facebook page of Women Fighting for America (WFFA), a right-wing ally vigilante group, where Meyer can be heard telling WFFA founder Christie Hutcherson, “I’m not setting up a nonprofit.”

In August, the VOP Telegram page thanked supposed “anonymous patriots” for providing the group with 52 motion-sensing cameras along with “heavy duty zip ties.” VOP has a long history of publicly asking followers for supplies in the form of surveillance equipment, personal care items, ammunition and Visa gift cards. The group has intercepted migrants and publicly shares images of young adults, mothers and children being placed in their personal vehicles under the pretense that they are rescuing children from the cartels.

Meyer refers to his border missions as “extractions,” claiming that his group targets cartel stash houses in search of children. In a July interview reshared by the VOP Telegram channel, Meyer can be heard saying: “I have the contacts of over a dozen unaccompanied children that I was personally there for the extraction. They made the phone calls from my phone. We talked to their families. It’s the first thing we do, is put them in contact with their parents. We are going to follow up with every one of the children that have been given my contact information and have given me theirs, so we’re going to see where these children end up in America. We are sending teams out to make sure that these children aren’t being sponsored by pedophiles.”

In October, a group calling itself Dragon’s Den, made up of self-proclaimed, “pedophile hunters,” followed VOP’s lead and showed up to the home of an individual they claimed was a sponsor. Days earlier, VOP had uploaded a video where Meyer and another member by the name Shawna Martin had detained a 16-year-old boy named Henry.

Videos of the interaction were uploaded to Telegram along with personal information the boy provided to VOP members. This included a name and phone number of a guardian. Days later, Dragon’s Den members claimed they tracked down Henry’s sponsor in Bellevue, Washington, and showed up to an apartment complex to question the sponsor about Henry’s whereabouts, the nature of Henry and the sponsor’s relationship and the length of time Henry was expected to stay at that location.

Although Hatewatch was unable to confirm just how many phone numbers Meyer might have in his possession, the VOP telegram channel has shared audio recordings of Meyer harassing supposed cartel leaders and what he claims are the family members of migrants.

Meyer isn’t the only vigilante at the Southern border who continues to perpetuate QAnon conspiracies. Rebecca Ferland, leader of the group AZ Desert Guardians, has similarly espoused QAnon talking points while engaging in border activities earlier in the year. Ferland, who also goes by the name “Becky,” was one of the initial border leaders to join Meyer’s “border coalition.” Over the last few months, she has continued to peddle the false claim that U.S. sponsors for migrant children are also registered sex offenders.

Sponsors are required to go through a series of background checks and a home inspection to make sure a home is safe, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

People who have been convicted of a crime involving violence, rape, physical assault, human trafficking, sexual abuse, an offense involving a child or a felony involving a crime against a child are denied sponsorship. Meyer’s and Ferland’s allegations about migrant sponsors don’t include documented cases.

A quick review of AZ Desert Guardians’ Facebook profile reveals images of signs with slogans such as, “#SaveOurChildren” and “Where are the children?!” – phrases that seeped into mainstream culture in 2020 when QAnon adherents hijacked the phrases to protest human trafficking networks they maliciously maintained were being operated by Democratic politicians, government officials and celebrities. Ferland, who was once part of VOP before breaking off to form AZ Desert Guardians, stereotypically depicts migrants as only violent sexual predators. Ferland credits Meyer’s unsubstantiated story of having discovered the remains of a child sex camp in the form of a “rape tree” as the catalyst for AZ Desert Guardians’ vigilante work.

Like VOP, AZ Desert Guardians has a history of harassing humanitarian groups in the Pima County area, going as far as to share images of Humane Borders volunteers online and accusing the humanitarian water rights organization of assisting cartels by placing water stations along cartel routes.

The images and posts of volunteers appear to be attempts to intimidate humanitarian groups. This is highlighted best by a post from the VOP Telegram channel from July reading: “Attn: Humane Borders, No More Deaths, Pima County Governemnt (sic), Notify your Volunteers that additional Surveillance Equipment is being installed along Hwy 286. Your Vehicles and faces will be captured and provided to the Public so they know who assisted the Pedophiles and other Violent Criminals evade (sic) Border Patrol. You will not have anonymity and your physical addresses, phone numbers, and places of employment will be provided as well.”

Although AZ Desert Guardians appear to have shifted away from VOP in recent months, anti-immigrant sentiment is still present within the organization.

Even though AZ Desert Guardians and UPA were two of the original groups to help start VOP’s “border coalition,” it appears both groups have drifted away from Meyer. Neither group has appeared on VOP’s Telegram channel in months, and Meyer has instead cultivated relationships with other far-right vigilantes, such as Women Fighting for America.

Jan. 6 Capitol rioters

AZ Border Recon
Civilian paramilitaries with AZ Border Recon search for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers at the U.S.-Mexico border on Nov. 14, 2016 near Arivaca, Arizona. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Alongside white nationalist and QAnon adherents, the border has also attracted several Jan. 6 rioters. This includes Christie Hutcherson, founder of the pro-Trump group Women Fighting for America (WFFA); Tim Foley, leader of the anti-immigrant militant group AZ Border Recon; a UFO conspiracy theorist named Paul Flores and Shawna Martin, a far-right MAGA activist and VOP volunteer.

Hutcherson, a far-right religious zealot, first broke into the spotlight earlier this year when she spoke in front of a large pro-Trump crowd on the eve of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Hutcherson, a proponent of “The Big Lie,” frequently conflates her religious and political beliefs regurgitating the notion that God chose Trump to run the country for four more years. According to Right Wing Watch, Hutcherson also claimed to be a member of the Family Research Council, a SPLC-designated anti-LGBTQ hate group. On the WFFA website, the group states its mission is to “assist women from all walks of life to push back on the daily attacks on the nuclear family and defend American values.”

Christie Hutcherson
Christie Hutcherson, founder of Women Fighting for America, spoke at a Jan. 5 pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C.
The Jan. 5 rally was livestreamed by the Right Side Broadcasting Network, which is funded by MyPillow’s Mike Lindell. (Screenshot from Vimeo posted by Right Wing Watch)

In a Facebook post from December 2020, WFFA urged its followers to “join us in DC January 5-7 to support our freedom, democracy and the Constitution.” On the day of the insurrection, Hutcherson livestreamed herself in front of the Washington Memorial and asked followers to send donations to her PayPal account. Like Meyer, Hutcherson frequently asks viewers to donate to her organization but admits donations are not tax deductible, because, as she stated in a Facebook post in August, WFFA “won’t serve the corrupt IRS.”

This past summer, media shared on both the VOP Telegram channel and WFFA Facebook account showed the friendly relationship between Hutcherson and Meyer as leaders who dabble in groundless assertions that label most migrants as pedophiles. In videos shared online, VOP and WFFA members can be seen stopping migrants and, in some cases, migrants can be seen inside vigilante-owned vehicles.

In August, Hutcherson uploaded a video to Facebook giving viewers a look into one of the VOP campsites. During her interaction with Meyer, a sticker of UPA can be spotted on the campground highlighting the extent to which Meyer has managed to wrangle in extremist groups from the far right to engage in his border coalition.

Videos uploaded by Hutcherson to Facebook indicate WFFA has at times, also taken after VOP and engaged in the practice of confiscating cellphones from migrants. Hutcherson and Meyer claim confiscated cellphones provide intelligence on cartel networks located in Arizona. Throughout the course of one video, Hutcherson reiterates the idea that the migrant crisis at the border is “orchestrated,” saying, “This administration has murder, blood, rape all on their hands.”

This isn’t the first time WFFA has been affiliated with far-right extremist groups. In Facebook posts and interviews conducted with Meyer, Hutcherson has confirmed her group has previously spent time with the anti-immigrant militant Tim Foley, founder of AZ Border Recon, a paramilitary group that patrols the desert. Foley is coincidentally another Jan. 6 protester who is situated in Arizona conducting his own border vigilante operations.

Although Foley has tried to scrub his social media accounts to erase references to the Jan. 6 insurrection, social media posts from the AZ Border Recon account and screenshots from Twitter indicate Foley was present in D.C. at that time for the “March for Trump Bus Tour.”

As High Country News reported in 2019, Foley has become a well-known figure in the Southern Arizona region due to his paramilitary style patrols. Founded in 2010, AZ Border Recon was born out of Foley’s paranoia with undocumented immigrants coming into the country. His anxieties helped kickstart AZ Border Recon’s activities, which include searching for cartel networks and intercepting migrants in the Arizona desert.

According to the WFFA Facebook page, in June, Hutcherson and Foley teamed up for a border outing. The post, which includes a 42-minute video, calls on members to “join the battle,” and serves as an opportunity for the two leaders to share far-right conspiracy theories. At one point, Foley and Hutcherson even peddle the anti-Catholic idea that Catholic-affiliated charities are supporting the migrant crisis so they can reap in profits, presumably in the form of donations.

A look through the YouTube account of AZ Border Recon gives a glimpse into the lack of oversight by any government authority in the region. Hatewatch has previously reported on some of the interactions between militia members and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents in Pima County. Although state laws in Arizona prohibit the formation of private militias, many of these vigilante groups operate on the notion that they can offer intelligence and, in some cases, migrants, to agents.

Just as Meyer’s border coalition has brazenly detained migrants, AZ Border Recon has engaged in similar behavior. In a YouTube video titled “Border Uber,” which was shared on the AZ Border Recon page in April, Foley can be seen intercepting and transporting a group of migrants in his truck to border patrol agents in the area.

Although AZ Border Recon was established much earlier than VOP, Foley and his group have continued to engage in vigilante activity with little regard for the rights of migrants and without accountability from state or federal agencies. In September 2020, Foley shared a clip, supposedly from an interview with a foreign media outlet, where he is asked about the number of migrants he has turned over to CBP agents, to which he replies, “hundreds.”

In a clip uploaded to the AZ Border Recon YouTube page in 2016, Foley can be seen searching through a man’s wallet. The description on the video labels the man a “cartel scout,” but it’s during their interaction that it becomes clear, Foley, like Meyer, is operating on his own set of rules.

During the 2-minute video, a detained man can be heard repeatedly asking AZ Border Recon members to return his I.D. card. Foley can be heard telling the man that the I.D. was placed back in the man’s wallet. As the unidentified man insisting his I.D. was not returned to him, a third individual can be seen entering the frame asking the man to sign a document. It’s unclear what the document outlined or if it was part of a filming waiver, but the migrant in the video is seen refusing to provide his signature. At one point in the video, Foley can be heard telling the filming crew: “He’s in the county illegally; he’s broken the law. He has no freaking rights.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), migrants have several rights which include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Protections against the arbitrary searches and seizures of people or property under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  • The right to remain silent.
  • The right to an attorney.
  • Unwarranted detainment without “reasonable suspicion.”

Hutcherson and Foley aren’t the only Jan. 6 protesters to end up playing border patrol in Arizona. Paul Flores, a self-proclaimed journalist and UFO hunter, has also been engaged in the fray. Flores is a longtime associate of VOP and AZ Desert Guardians, although he claims he is an independent journalist operating separately from the militia groups.

Flores’s videos typically end up on militia social media pages and serve as propaganda for VOP and AZ Desert Guardians. Like Meyer, Flores appears to be a hardcore conspiracy theorist and Trump devotee. On Facebook, Flores shared images of his trip to D.C. on Jan. 6. In 2020, Flores, along with Meyer, were responsible for launching what they referred to as #OPSIA or Operation Stop It All, a scheme where the two men attempted to lure in migrants into VOP campsites with the use of fake humanitarian water stations. As of November, VOP and its volunteers appear to still be active near the border.

Border vigilantes are heavily reliant on citizen volunteers. Groups such as VOP, AZ Desert Guardians and UPA tailor their social media content to appeal to like-minded individuals. It’s no surprise then that in the past year, the activities of the border coalition have also managed to attract extremists outside the militia movement.

In June, the VOP Telegram channel shared a post thanking several people for volunteering with the coalition. It was through these posts that Hatewatch was able to identify another individual with the moniker “Butterfly” as Shawna Martin. On Facebook, Martin, a Trump fan, has shared images of her stints at the border as well as images from her trip to D.C. on Jan. 6.

According to Facebook, Martin, who lives in Washington state, has also shared VOP propaganda along with the QAnon inspired hashtags of “StopChildTrafficking” and “BorderWarsAZ.” The content is widespread and can also be found on Martin’s YouTube page, including a clip from June that shows Martin alongside Meyer and an unidentified member of UPA standing over what appears to be a dazed and confused migrant. Videos of Martin alongside VOP at the border continue into late October.

The conspiracy-fueled rants also cross over into questioning the legitimacy of the COVID-19 vaccine and the effectiveness of wearing masks to curb the spread of the virus. Ironically, members of the border coalition have also accused migrants of bringing in COVID-19 and other diseases such as tuberculosis into the country.

Vaccine police

The anti-science stance among border vigilantes is so widespread and ingrained that in July, Meyer teamed up with the “Vaccine Police” to help patrol the border.

Christopher Key, otherwise known as the “Vaccine Police,” is a snake oil salesman turned rabid antivaxxer. As Sports Illustrated reported in 2013, Key first made headlines when he was profiled for running a bogus sport supplement company called S.W.A.T.S. – Sports with Alternatives to Steroids – out of Birmingham, Alabama. Key, along with S.W.A.T.S. owner Mitch Ross, a former male stripper turned sport supplement salesman, built S.W.A.T.S. on the premise that their holographic stickers, “negatively charged” water, deer antler spray and beam ray technology could enhance athletic performance.

In 2009, professional football player and Rams linebacker David Vobora sued S.W.A.T.S. after using the deer antler spray and later testing positive for methyltestosterone, a steroid banned by the National Football League. According to court documents, Vobora had the S.W.A.T.S. spray tested which confirmed the presence of methyltestosterone in the product. After Ross failed to hire a lawyer, Vobora was ultimately awarded $5.4 million. The ruling forced S.W.A.T.S. to temporarily shut down. The business eventually reopened under a new corporate name a few months later.

Alongside spreading the idea that the COVID-19 vaccine is being administered to for depopulation purposes, Key has previously aligned himself with Meyer. He first appeared at the border under the guise of helping rescue children from sex traffickers. Like other members of the border coalition, Key asserts that Catholic, Methodist and Baptist churches are working alongside 501(c)(3) organizations to traffic migrants into the U.S.

Given the crossover between extremist groups rallying around the border issue, it’s no surprise that in the current landscape, Burghart and his team at IREHR have been seeing similar activity in their analysis of far-right movements. “Now we’re starting to see a bleed-over between the nativist sentiments, now with the kind of mobilization that’s going around COVID-19 and COVID denial. There’s a lot of crossover there, where groups were mobilizing the kind of anti-masker, anti-vaxxer types are now using immigration as a way to move more people into that space,” Burghart said.

Although vigilante members such as Flores claim VOP shut down border operations in August, posts shared on Sept. 12 by both Meyer and Key assert Key was headed down to the border to help with “child extractions.” Key, like other border vigilantes, appears to be obsessed with doing the job of law enforcement and engaging in border stunts with the intent to rescue children.

Hatewatch reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to inquire about the policies and steps the agency might have in place to address extremists’ activities near the border. In an email, Supervisor and Public Affairs Specialist John Mennell could only state: “CBP does not endorse or support any private group or organization from taking matters into their own hands as it could have disastrous personal and public safety consequences. CBP strongly encourages concerned citizens to call the U.S. Border Patrol and/or local law enforcement authorities if they witness or suspect illegal activity. Furthermore, forced detention can also be viewed as a criminal offense and violators will be referred to local, state or federal prosecutors for potential legal action.”

When pressed for a clarification on the safety concerns CBP has with extremist groups near the border, Bronia Ashford, Chief of Tribal and Community Affairs for the Office of Intergovernmental Public Liaison, wrote in a follow-up email, “CBP encourages individuals – from hikers, hunters, humanitarians to citizen groups – to notify us of their planned activities in remote areas or locations where illegal cross-border activity occurs in southern Arizona to provide aid when needed and to avoid encounters that may lead to unnecessary investigative or defensive action on the part of Air and Marine and Border Patrol agents.”

Additionally, Ashford added that “in all cases, individuals should refrain from providing transportation or other assistance to migrants that may be viewed as furtherance of illegal entry.”

In October, a report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee highlighted the failures of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to hold agents accountable for egregious behavior, albeit that observation was made in regard to content and rhetoric spewed online.

Nevertheless, the report emphasized the lack of disciplinary guidelines that were in place within CBP and more disturbingly noted that many agents who were found to have engaged in misconduct were handed reduced forms of discipline while being allowed to continue work with migrant populations, including children.

Scandals in recent years have resulted in the ACLU labeling CBP “a rogue agency with a long history of abuse and violent impunity.”

Hatewatch also reached out to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department for a statement regarding the migrant detainments at the hands of far-right extremists. The agency failed to respond to repeated requests for comment.

Burghart believes greater accountability is needed from CBP and ICE agents and sees a possible solution starting at the local level with “civilian accountability to keep an eye out for the kind of radicalization that might be taking place.” In his view, Burghart worries that extremists could be successfully cozying up to agents with the intent to get them to use their power to enforce far-right political beliefs rather than the law.

As of November, Meyer continues calling on assistance from his supporters, either in the form of donations or in-person volunteers to aid his border operations.

Photo illustration by SPLC (source image of Tim Foley by Andrew Cullen)

Comments or suggestions? Send them to Have tips about the far right? Please email: Have documents you want to share? Please visit: Follow us on Twitter @Hatewatch.