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AFP Travels with Minutemen on Texas Border  


By Mark Anderson

MISSION, Texas – Jim Barnes, Truman Fields and other members of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC) here in Mission, Texas have a solid working relationship with U.S. Border Patrol agents in the non-stop  mission of patrolling the border with Mexico. Sightings are, of course, frequent in this "watch" zone that covers some 40 miles along the Rio Grande River. The MCDC members have sound procedures for scouting the border so the Border Patrol can detain illegal aliens – usually leading to their deportation. But if any of the illegal border crossers are wanted for crimes in other states, they are processed accordingly.

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American Free Press visited the Mission site in the Rio Grande Valley several times this October, to get a firsthand look at what MCDC members do. Although MCDC members, equipped with night vision gear, are getting better at spotting the illegals and the Border Patrol has stepped up its apprehensions, perhaps the most significant roadblock to a much more secure border in this sector, like other sectors in Texas and in other border states, are federal land policies.

The wildlife refuges right along the river, MCDC members point out, are the problem. These large fenced areas of federal land – dense with vegetation and adorned with sharply thorned mesquite trees, rattlesnakes and other hazards – provide sanctuary not only for wildlife, but also for the armed drug cartel operatives who smuggle cocaine across the border, just as human "coyotes" smuggle people, putting a price on the heads ordinary Mexicans who cross the river into the U.S. at a time when the North American Free Trade Agreement has made work more scarce on both sides of the border.

Yet Mexican nationals (and some from other nations, occasionally from overseas) still jump the border for agricultural employment, to work in slaughterhouses, get welfare perks, etc. But such a massive influx of people illegally entering the U.S. unavoidably poses a national security problem. MCDC members believe national security starts at home and that the established rules for U.S. citizenship should apply equally to all, without allowing some to side-step the system by jumping the river – especially when those who traffic in drugs and people bring fully automatic firearms to the border and engage in intense shootouts with U.S. authorities, willing to kill anything and anyone in their path.

Fields drove this AFP writer on top of earthen levees and on access roads near the river just south of Mission, where a massive section of the federal border wall is being built. This concrete structure, perhaps 16 feet high, vaguely resembles the Berlin Wall at a distance. Not far from there, we drove near Anzalduas County Park, which, ironically, is named after the grandmother of Al Garza, who is the MCDC's national director of operations from Arizona. Soon we were alongside one of at least three or four wildlife refuges in the greater Mission area.

Fields, a former Marine (a number of MCDC members are ex-military), pointed out that whenever the barbed wire fencing along the property line of a wildlife refuge is cut, twisted or otherwise disturbed, that usually means that coyotes or drug smugglers had used the sanctuary to hide. So, MCDC members will work with the Border Patrol to make sure the fence is repaired, to send a message to smugglers that they are being watched should they return to that spot along the fence in another attempt to exit (or re-enter) the wildlife sanctuary.

Most MCDC members have standard concealed-carry handgun permits and carry their sidearms purely for self defense. They only spot the illegals and do everything they can to avoid direct contact; the Border Patrol does the rest. But neither MCDC members nor the Border Patrol can enter the wildlife refuges without a hitch. Barnes explained that no citizen with a concealed-carry permit is allowed to enter a refuge with their handgun. He said there is no point entering a densely foliated area unarmed where armed smugglers often are hiding.

Nor do the Border Patrol agents fare much better. They prefer not to enter the thicket to weed out the smugglers, who often hide out in these wildlife sanctuaries at night. Getting into "jungle warfare" with poor visibility is a tactical disadvantage with potentially fatal results.

Moreover, federal game wardens in the wildlife refuges do not always fully cooperate with the Border Patrol. So, all things considered, the MCDC-Border Patrol efforts concentrate on more open areas where everyone can be armed and the intruders can be seen.

Barnes, who's the Mission MCDC sector chief, and his colleagues want to do something about the wildlife refuges.

"I've been on Military Highway (a major east-west road along the river) and saw 30 illegal aliens come out of the wildlife refuge and cross the highway," Barnes told AFP, adding that Border Patrol agents responded within five minutes to that recent incident. However, MCDC members are not always clued in on what happens once the patrol is called. Often, individual agents will let them know how many were caught and other details, but MCDC members do not always know the outcome.

While there have been rather feeble legislative efforts to get rid of the prohibition on firearms in the wildlife refuges, no one at this time expects much to happen in that regard.

MCDC and Border Patrol are doing the best they can, even as most U.S. military resources are overseas, requiring multiple tours of duty from soldiers who could be serving in the Border Patrol instead, or could be stationed in Texas, Arizona and other states to protect America's borders instead of other nations' borders.

Considering how tough the task is, things are looking up in many respects. For example, the family that owns the King Anvil Ranch very close to the Rio Grande River near Mission had been almost marooned there for seven years, hardly able to leave even to run errands, since departing would encourage illegal aliens to trespass onto the ranch. But now Minutemen are stationed there a lot of the time.

"Now the family can go to town – go shopping – go out to dinner," Fields told AFP.

Border Patrol agents unofficially gave the Mission MCDC some credit for indirectly aiding in the capture of almost 1,800 pounds of cocaine recently. Furthermore, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino, citing incidents where his deputies were pinned down by heavy automatic rifle fire from drug runners along the river, has authorized his officers to carry fully automatic rifles and to return fire. They are even allowed to shoot across the river in the direction of Mexican territory, as reported in the local press. However, the police in neighboring counties such as Starr and Cameron do not have such a firearms policy, at least not yet. 

If you would like to contact Barnes, emails can be sent to

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