Since late 2002, Chris Simcox has made it his self-appointed duty to send illegal immigrants back to the other side of the barbed-wire Arizona-Mexico border in Cochise County, Az. Simcox calls it a “neighborhood watch,” reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It is the wild, wild West out here,” said Simcox, 43, owner of the Tombstone Tumbleweed, the weekly paper he uses partly to recruit members for his Civil Homeland Defense Corps patrol group.
Undocumented immigrants have surged through this southeastern Arizona county. After a decade of security buildups elsewhere, the remote mountainous deserts are the preferred passage points for illegal crossers. They leave behind trash, slashed fences – and at times their own dehydrated or frozen cadavers – en route to better-paying jobs in the U.S. “The end result, so far, in Cochise County has been devastation of the environment, degradation of the quality of life, a tremendous collision between residents and illegal immigrants from all over the world,” Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever says.
Simcox’s group and other civilian patrols have recruited disgruntled property owners. They have drawn significantly from those who have come from other states, attracted by the groups’ doomsday warnings about porous borders post-9-11. Some, like the Missouri Militia, based in the Kansas City area, patrol ranches in full camouflage with semi-automatic weapons.
Five Missouri Militia members answered the call of Ranch Rescue, a group founded in Texas that became the first organized civilian patrol to set up camp on the Arizona border. Its approach has a more military feel to it than Simcox’s group, whose members are mainly middle-aged and elderly volunteers dressed in jeans and sitting in camp chairs along migrant trails.