Immigration has been a hot button issue in the United States, which may explain why a self-formed militia accidentally “caught” a group of researchers counting bats instead of illegal immigrants and drug traffickers trying to cross the border. While no one was hurt, the incident was stressful for the three scientists.
A border militia from Colorado traveled to an area of Arizona near the U.S.-Mexican border intending to protect it against illegal immigrants. Due to being from another state, they reportedly did not know the area. On Aug. 23, the militia mistook three individuals for illegal immigrants or smugglers and assumed they were making their way into the country, but what they found instead were three geologists conducting night research on cave-dwelling bats in the area. The insanity gets worse from here.
The border militia brandished their weapons at the three scientists. One of the geologists claims that the men acted “jumpy” and that the group was yelled at by the militia, forcing the scientists to at one point hide behind rocks. A searchlight was also shone on them and the border militia acted as though “they had some kind of authority.” Once the researchers understood that the militiamen were simply regular civilians they left the area, but the bright light was kept trained on them as they retreated back to their camp.
The return trek was difficult for the scientists, as they had been standing on a high ledge when they had been discovered. The search light made it harder for them to see as they retreated. The border militia yelled at the researchers to sit down and wait for the militiamen to come to them, but they ignored the order. No wonder, given that they were not actually under arrest.
Things were made more difficult when the members of the militia began to follow them as they made their way to the camp. The militiamen apologized to the researchers for the confusion, but it was still a stressful situation. Eventually Border Patrol arrived, as well as the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office. The militiamen were described as having more firepower than the actual Border Patrol.
Law enforcement has expressed frustration with these militia groups. “Untrained” and without accountability, they are a serious liability to actual members of the Border Patrol, as well as to other lawmen. Additionally, they can present a danger to American citizens, as the encounter with the scientists showed. By some accounts, they are not actually fighting illegal immigration so much as getting in the way.
Militia groups have become a problem in the United States. On July 6, a man named Chris Davis called for citizens in his militia to protect the U.S.-Mexican border and told them that they needed to do so with weapons. He also insinuated that the protection of the border by American civilians could be the next 1776 if actual law enforcement interfered with their self-imposed mission. “Get back across the border or you will be shot,” he encouraged his followers to say to any illegals immigrants they should find.
The paranoia about illegal immigrants has turned the American border almost into an unofficial warzone. Average Americans have convinced themselves not just that they are defending a strip of land, but that their country needs them to defend it. Their self-empowerment makes America more extreme and less safe. Illegal immigration is not the major threat to America that so many make it out to be.
As for the recent event near the Arizona border, other American citizens enjoy using the area as well as researchers. Campers are common in the area and there were concerns for those camping that night. While no one was hurt, the militia endangered the lives of the bat researchers with its non-sanctioned fight against illegal immigration, and it has not advanced its cause by doing so.
Opinion by Jillian Moyet