NOGALES, Ariz. – The security of the border between the United States and Mexico, or lack there of, has been a hot topic recently – especially among the Presidential candidates.
But while they debate about what they are going to do, dozens of men and women across the country are taking action now and volunteering their time to patrol the U.S. border.
These men and women take time off work and away from their families to spend days camping in miserable conditions.
They say they do it because of a love for their country and a desire to protect it.
Recently, a group of about 45 people spent 10 days near Nogales, Arizona; some of them traveled all the way from Colorado.
Most belong to groups like the III% United Patriots or the Oath Keepers.
“Some people call us a militia, some people call us patriot groups, you can call us whatever you want to call us, we’re Americans,” said one volunteer from Colorado who goes by Ghost.
The group gathers near the border in Arizona to take a stand.
“I think there’s a few from California, it’s great to see all sorts of people come together,” said another Colorado volunteer, named Sparky.
“Trump talks about building a wall, we’re the wall right now,” said Ghost.
Their goal is to keep drugs and people crossing the border illegally out of the United States.
“We’re a sovereign country, yet these guys cross this border like it’s nothing. Like it’s not even there,” said Ghost.
The group is heavily armed and works closely with Border Patrol, but they’re not sanctioned by the U.S. government and they have no authority to make any arrests.
“We have no extra rights being down here than any other citizen that comes down,” said one group leader. “You do not have the ability to go out and start detaining people, typing people up, handcuffing people, chasing people and tackling them down and holding them for Border Patrol.”
Their job instead is to be extra eyes and ears for a strapped government agency.
“If it’s a close encounter you can ask them to stop. Funny thing is most of them will stop,” the group leader added.
For over a week these men and women patrol day and night, near weak links in the fence separating the United States and Mexico.
“I just feel like I want America to be right. If you’re gonna do something it should be right, if you’re gonna cross the border you should do it the right way,” said Sparky.
And there are those that do, but the border is nearly 2,000 miles long and in some rural areas little separates the two countries.
“Down here is just a simple four foot high metal Normandy barrier that says ‘alright, now you’re about ready to step into Mexico,’ it’s ridiculous,” said Ghost.
Hundreds of thousands of people cross illegally from Mexico into the United States each year, along with billions of dollars worth of illegal drugs.
“For lack of a better term I call them savages. That’s what they really are. There’s no respect for human life, there’s no respect for law, there’s no respect for anything and it pisses me off,” said Ghost.
For years the Mexican cartels have been smuggling in enormous quantities of heroin, cocaine, meth and marijuana and the Drug Enforcement Agency says Mexican drug traffickers are the greatest criminal threat to our country.
“Guys over there are making it and they’re bringing it to our country and that’s our youth. They’re destroying our youth. They’re destroying lives,” said Ghost.
During this mission group members find a stash of marijuana. They notify Border Patrol who takes over from there.
These volunteers know their operation barely makes a dent in the border problem, but they say they’ll never stop trying.
“Do we stop it? No, we know we don’t stop it,” said Ghost. “People are overwhelmed that we would literally take the time out of our lives to come do this and don’t get me wrong, that’s the reason that we do it. Somebody has to come down here.”
The group is already planning its next trips which includes a return operation to Nogales, as well as trips to New Mexico and Texas.