US Senators Warn of Proliferation of Paramilitary Groups on Mexican Border

Senators are calling for regulation and supervision of groups such as Veterans on Patrol (VOP) and Patriots for America (PFA), with the former having even disguised its desert camps as water stations

Frontera
January 13, 2023 | 12:38 PM

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Bloomberg Línea — Three US Democratic senators have warned about the increased presence of paramilitary groups on the southern border with Mexico at a time when migrants of various nationalities are stranded there, and warned that they will challenge the new US immigration program, according to The Epoch Times.

Senators Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker highlight in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the lack of oversight by the federal government to regulate such groups, and call for the government to “crack down on self-defense groups that undermine the rule of law, as well as the rights and safety of migrants”.

The senators placed particular emphasis on two groups, Veterans on Patrol (VOP) and Patriots for America (PFA), which, they say, have been collaborating with authorities to capture migrants, despite not being legally authorized to do so, reported The Hill.

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“For years, extralegal paramilitary organizations have engaged in unofficial border missions — reminiscent of Ku Klux Klan border patrols — intended to illegally detain and harass immigrants. These activities undermine legitimate government authority and threaten public safety. Recently, many of these groups have stepped up their efforts, and some are even carrying out their missions in collaboration with, or with approval from, local, state, and federal law enforcement agents, creating an escalating crisis that must be a priority for both the U.S.Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ),” the letter reads.

“Since 2021, VOP has been intercepting unaccompanied minors near the border in Arizona, surveilling US-based sponsors and, in some cases, confronting or helping others confront sponsors at their homes. VOP has also disguised its desert camps as water stations, intended to mimic those set up by faith-based organizations such as Humane Borders, to attract immigrants; VOP then turns them over to CBP,” the letter continues.

Carta de los Senadores a la Administración Biden sobre los Grupos de Vigilantes en la Frontera Sur de los E... by Lorena Guarino on Scribd

In the letter, the senators warn that “these activities undermine legitimate government authority and threaten public safety”.

They also note alarming reports of collaboration between law enforcement officials and PFA: “According to the American Civil Liberties Union in Texas, the PFA is ‘collaborating directly with the Kinney County Sheriff’s Office’, and ‘on at least one occasion appears to have also collaborated with the Texas National Guard. Alarmingly, there is also evidence of overt collaboration with federal agents. In May 2021, a video uploaded to Facebook showed a Border Patrol agent meeting with VOP members and praising their activities before collecting drone footage of the group’.

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In the letter, the senators call on Garland and Mayorkas for information about authorities collaborating with armed groups and militias.

Biden’s latest moves

President Joe Biden’s administration gave the green light in recent days to a program to receive 30,000 migrants a month from Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua, expanding the program currently granted to Venezuelan citizens.

In turn, the United States will immediately expel to Mexico migrants from those countries who attempt to cross into its territory in an irregular manner, and Mexico, for its part, has agreed to admit 30,000 migrants per month who are expelled from US territory.

Prior to this, the scheduled termination of Title 42 pandemic-era border restrictions was temporarily blocked.