On a recent moonlit night near the Rio Grande, Border Patrol agents began rounding up eight immigrants hiding in and around a canal. Out of the darkness emerged seven more armed men in fatigues. The Associated Press says that agents assumed the camouflaged crew that joined in pulling the immigrants from the canal was a tactical unit from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Only later did they learn that the men belonged to the Texas Militia, a group that dresses like a SWAT team and carries weapons but has no law-enforcement training or authority of any kind.
The situation ended peacefully but it was unsettling enough for the Border Patrol to circulate an “issue paper” warning other agents. The presence of armed militia members working on their own in a region known for human smuggling, drug smuggling and illegal immigration has added a variable to an already complex and tense situation. “How do they identify themselves? Do they have badges? How do we know who they are?” asked J. P. Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. “If they’re all just dressed in camos, it’s kind of hard to distinguish whether they’re law enforcement or not. … There’s a lot of potential for stuff to go wrong.”