Border watch groups, residents concerned about militia groups pa - FOX Carolina 21

Border watch groups, residents concerned about militia groups patrolling desert

Border watch groups, residents concerned about militia groups patrolling desert

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SASABE, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Residents living near the Arizona/Mexico border along with border watch groups are expressing concerns about out of state militia groups, patrolling the Sonoran desert.

This comes after Customs and Border Protection officials say, on Aug.23 at about 10 p.m., Tucson Sector agents got a call from a member of a militia group, reporting suspicious activity in the Sonoita area.   Agents responded only to find a small group of biologists studying bats.

Officials said members of the group were extremely upset about being approached by the militia.

In an area that is considered a hot bed of illegal drug smuggling and cartel activity, ranchers said they welcomed border patrol onto their property, but many of them were not eager to see the militia.

Melissa Owen, a rancher who owned 640 acres of land in Sasabe said she had said no to militia groups who had approached her in the past, asking if they could patrol on her property to keep watch on the border.

Owen said she had noticed and heard about more illegal activity taking place in the desert.

"What we're seeing is more scouts from groups who are carrying drugs. They want to just find out if they can get food, a ride to Phoenix, they're coming up here to see what they can get. The answer at this ranch is no," said Owen.

She added that militia groups added to that mix were a recipe for disaster, as many of them did not understand how dangerous the rugged and harsh terrain in the Sonoran desert could be.

Arizona based border watch groups said they too had been approached by militia groups from out of state, wanting to come keep an eye on the border in Arizona.

Tucson News Now contacted a group called Border Narcotics Alliance.   The group consisted of about 53 members, all of whom had background working in intelligence.   Director Mike Presnell said their focus was to gather intelligence on drug and human smuggling coming through the border.   They turned that information over to federal intelligence agencies.

"Our people are professional. They're trained. They know what they're doing and are trained in procedures of intelligence. We understand people want to help, I think border patrol feels the same way, but that desert is unforgiving, so are drug smugglers, they will kill you," said Presnell.

Presnell added it was illegal to try and stop people, even if they were illegals entering the country. 

“Coming into the country one time is a misdemeanor and the best they can do is tell border patrol where they are,” said Presnell. 

Tucson News Now also spoke to “Nailer”, the founder of a group called Arizona Border Recon. He declined to give us his real name because of the work he does out in the desert. 

“It's people coming from out of state that don't know what they're doing, who because they come down, they're all adrenalined up, I guess. Anything that moves, they suspect is something bad,” said Nailer. 

He stressed that his group had nothing to do with the militia, even though he had been contacted my many who wanted to train with him and help patrol the desert. “Nailer” said he only agreed to help train those who were willing to play by his rules. 

“We've turned away quite a few people. Militias tend to have egos. Their egos get in the way of doing what we need to do. They think they know what should be done, but we have years of experience down here. Not everyone out here is a flaming lunatic,” said Nailer. He added that because of their experience, they would have immediately been able to tell the group of biologists were not illegal's. “You have to look at what they're carrying. You can tell the difference between who belongs out there and scientists looking at bats,” said Nailer. CBP officials released a statement saying:

"CBP does not endorse or support any private group or organization to take border security 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. Securing our nation's borders can be dangerous. Interdicting narcotics and deterring and apprehending individuals illegally entering the united states requires highly-trained, law enforcement personnel. In all cases, individuals should not attempt to detain, provide transportation or any other assistance to migrants that may be viewed as furtherance of illegal entry. Detaining or assisting an undocumented migrant could result in prosecution." 

Tucson News Now reached out to militia groups based out of Colorado to see if they were involved in the incident near Sonoita. They have not responded to our emails as of this time.

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