Border Watch Part 4: Local Reaction

NOGALES, Ariz. — Each year, the III% United Patriots organize a trip to the U.S. border with Mexico to look for people and drugs crossing illegally.

But whether or not their help is wanted or valuable depends on who is asked.

“We don’t condone anybody supporting, or any private organization supporting the Border Patrol or taking border security matters into their own hands,” said Border Patrol Agent and Public Information Officer Daniel Hernandez. “We know that they are out there but they’re on public land or any kind of private land that has allowed them to be there and that’s their right to be there.”

Hernandez said while the organization isn’t breaking any rules, its help isn’t wanted.

“Securing our nation’s borders is very dangerous and interdicting narcotics or deterring or apprehending individuals in the United States requires highly-trained law enforcement personnel,” Hernandez said.

The local sheriff in Nogales shared a similar sentiment.

“While their case may be noble, well intended, I think they’re misguided,” said Sheriff Tony Estrada of Santa Cruz County Nogales. “You look at Santa Cruz county with 1,000 border patrol agents and they’re just going to get in the way. It’s dangerous. So we don’t particularly care to have them here.”

But the III% United Patriots say that’s not what they hear out in the field.

“I have not encountered any person in law enforcement that doesn’t like us,” said Yota. “I’m sure there’s some people that have a different opinion of us, but I haven’t ran into anybody that straight out said we don’t like you and we don’t want you to be here.”

He added their interactions are usually quite the opposite.

“They love us, they’re like ‘thank you for being here, we’re glad you’re here helping us out,'” said Yota. “We have a very good rapport with Border Patrol and DHS and we work hand in hand with them. We got coms (communications) with them constantly and they really really appreciate us.”

“Some of the border patrol agents I feel like have been scripted on what to tell us,” said Ghost.

The III% United Patriots said they travel to the area to show support for agents in the field and the people who live in the nearby communities. Some nearby homeowners stopped by the camp to say hello.

“The homeowners were very very happy to have us, said we were welcome up at anytime,” said Ghost.

But the groups reception in town varies.

“In Nogales we get a lot of finger gestures pointed at us,” said Yota.

“I like to interact and try to just let people know we’re not the bad guy. I’m here for you. That’s why I’m here and we get more negative than we do positive in Nogales but I always like to try,” said Ghost.

Dressed in all camouflage and traveling with a security team, the III% United Patriots said they are prepared for people to notice and stare, even call the police, which happened every time a team went to Walmart.

“As you can see we did everything legally, we spoke with the Nogales police down there. They were happy to have us there, shook our hands, gave us more contact information, gave us some little ideas about what was going on out on this hill and we went on our ways,” said .50 Cal.

Ghost said while they expect people to be curious, they are always on the lookout for anyone who seems to be a little too interested in what they are doing.

“I think we made it one, two, about three aisles before I noticed a gentleman take extreme interest in us and reach into his pocket and pull out his phone while he’s watching us and start texting someone to notify them that we are in Walmart,” said Ghost.

He said the man was likely a spotter for the Cartel.

“Everybody takes pictures, the family or the Mexican people that are like ‘Oh my god here’s the military or whatever,’ they’ll take one or two and they’ll go about their business but when you have a guy pacing you through the store taking numerous pictures, down numerous aisles, that’s not a guy that’s just taking a picture for the cool factor, that’s a guy that’s taking pictures to identify people,” said Ghost.

The group keeps a watchful eye on their surroundings as they carry on their business answering questions as they go.

“When we went and stopped and filled up propane, the owner of that gas station, what he had told us was that he appreciated folks like us coming down because he thought that they were helping to stop crime in the area,” said .50 Cal. “Now we aren’t trying to be vigilantes and as you know we aren’t out in Nogales hunting down criminals and crime but he saw the correlation between what we were doing.”

The III% United Patriots take the good reactions with the bad and stay focused on their mission which they say is doing their part to keep America safe.

“We operate within the law and we we try to operate even outside of that law portion, we try to operate within the wishes of the local law enforcement community,” said .50 Cal. “We want to come here as good citizens and we want to leave here as good citizens and we want to leave here with people respecting what we did down here.”

This story is part of an ongoing Border Patrol series. Coming up next: how the III% United Patriots help veterans who suffer from PTSD.

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