Editor’s note: In “Illegals: The Imminent Threat Posed by Our Unsecured U.S.-Mexico Border,” veteran journalist Jon E. Dougherty documents a truth that both major political parties have missed – namely, that sustained high immigration levels from south of the border will continue to pose economic, labor, security and criminal threats to the United States, unless American and Mexican leaders find ways to limit it.
In researching the book, Dougherty interviewed leaders of citizen border groups that are doing their best to stem the daily flow of illegal aliens over America’s southern border in the absence of adequate government patrols. In this interview, Chris Simcox, editor and publisher of the Tombstone, Ariz., Tumbleweed, explains the organization he founded: Civil Homeland Defense.
Q: What’s the primary mission of Civil Homeland Defense, and how do you go about accomplishing it?
A: Well, the primary goal is to fill the gap that the United States government has not filled in protecting American citizens from border bandits, from crime, from drugs coming across. That’s our No. 1 concern, that in a time of national security our government has abrogated its duty to protect the sovereignty of our borders, so it’s up to the citizens to do that. We’re a large “neighborhood watch” group … that’s no different than any other neighborhood watch group in any affluent, urban neighborhood in this country who protect themselves from potential crime. That’s what we’re about; we work the Cochise County (Ariz.) sector around the Palominas area, from the national park over to Naco. That’s our backyard, and we’re out there to help protect our neighbors from crime, drugs and try to deter this out-of-control illegal immigration that’s going on.
Q: How do you do that?
A: Well, at this point, the missions have continued to evolve. The patrols were, for many months, doing nothing but driving up and down border roads and setting up observation details that did nothing but observe groups approaching the border. They tracked them and followed the cars that were loaded with people and ready to drop them off. We created a presence that would deter them, but they continued to move around us, so now we have a triple layer of protection program. We have a group that is actually right along the border fence, and we have another group that is about a quarter- to a half-mile further inland. We’ve done foot patrols and have identified heavily trafficked trails that groups have been using. We now set up on high points and on knolls with night vision and binoculars. Once a group is reported to have slipped across the border, we watch for them coming inland and we approach them and tell them to sit down because they’re being stopped from entering our country illegally and that we’ve notified Border Patrol.
Those that don’t run back across the border pretty much comply and sit down; we offer them food, water, any medical attention and blankets. If they need anything, we provide them humanely with anything they might need that we can provide at that time, and we sit there and wait with them until Border Patrol shows up. We’ve waited an hour and a half sometimes for Border Patrol.
Then we have another group that’s about a full mile inland as our third tier, so that if we lose a group, then they pick them up for up to a mile. It typically takes illegal immigrant groups about an hour to move that far, and that gives us enough time to continue to track them and to provide their location to Border Patrol. It’s been working beautifully; over [a recent span of a few weeks], we have personally encountered over 150 that we have detained peacefully and babysat until Border Patrol showed up. One group included a group of drug smugglers that Border Patrol was able to apprehend, so our effectiveness has increased tremendously.
Q: What led you to create a group to combat illegal immigration – a single event, a series of events?
A: Well, it was a lifetime of watching public officials say one thing and do another – or not do anything – about the problem. I’ve lived in Chicago and Los Angeles, and I’ve always been involved in community service, but again, I’ve seen more and more the government pulling away from this issue.
I saw the amount of gang activity that overran much of Los Angeles. I lived through the riots and have seen my neighborhood go up in flames, and see people just out of control and the government not do anything. Of course, after 9-11 I got pretty fed up. Then, I went on a camping trip to sort of collect my thoughts and figure out what I was going to do next. I was in Organ Pipe National Monument (in Arizona), and at that time our country was “locked down,” supposedly, and everyone was on alert. While I was out camping along the border, I encountered five paramilitary-type heavily armed groups of drug dealers just driving truckloads full of drugs right across the border. I approached Border Patrol and alerted them to the problem. They said basically, “We know, but we can’t do anything about it. We’re undermanned, we’re understaffed, there is no real security down here,” etc. I approached the Park Rangers and they said the same thing.
It infuriated me that most people in the country were duped into believing that frisking old ladies at airports was equal to national security while everyone in the world was simply walking across our borders. I then spent the next two months camping along that border, all the way from Organ Pipe over to the Tombstone-Cochise County area, and watched thousands of people waltz right into the country. I said, that’s it – it’s absurd. There is no national security if we have open borders like this. …
The world hasn’t changed since then, so I began helping ranchers in the area as a private security guard basically, evicting trespassers. I did try to join Border Patrol, and I did try to join all four branches of the military in our country, but I didn’t meet the age requirement – I was two years too old.
I decided that after I heard my president ask for volunteers to serve their country, this was the way I could accomplish that – to create a group of citizens of like mind who are frustrated and ready to actually do something about the problem other than send letters and e-mails – action that would actually protect my country and protect my neighbors. At the same time, I bought this newspaper and have used it to try to get the word out to others that they aren’t getting the full story about what’s going on down here, to – if I had to – embarrass and shame our government into doing its job.
Q: Do you have a good working relationship with the local Border Patrol and Customs agents?
A: Yes. Border Patrol agents are great; we’ve developed relationships with many of the guys out in the field. I would say 95 percent of them are friendly and supportive and understand what we’re doing. We do occasionally run into a surly BP agent who doesn’t like what we’re doing, and I have to admit to you – this isn’t a racist thing – but every one of them who doesn’t like what we’re doing is Hispanic. But there are other Hispanic BP officers, however, that are sympathetic and understand. At first they were leery of us, but after [months] of working side-by-side with these guys and continually turning over and reporting [aliens] to them, they understand what we’re about and that we’re responsible, humane American citizens who are actually bold enough – some say wacky enough – to stand up and do something about this.
Q: Do the agents talk to you about their jobs?
A: Yes. They’re held back from doing their best jobs, and they are very frustrated about that. They have poor vehicles. There are times when they are told to sit in a spot and not pursue groups of crossers. They never know what the orders are going to be from day to day, but they know they can be more effective.
I came across a situation recently that was probably one of the most potentially deadly as well as terrifying situations I’ve ever seen. We were out on a patrol and I was on a hilltop with my girlfriend, and we saw a group of about 50 illegal aliens who were being pursued by a solo Border Patrol agent in the middle of the night. This group scattered into two different groups and then regrouped. They were going to attack this agent if we had not come down that hill shouting and screaming and backing up that agent. I don’t know if [the agent] was more scared that we came out of nowhere, but we potentially saved that agent’s life.
This group of 50 was comprised mostly of young, aggressive males who, after we came, began shouting profanities at us and tossing rocks at us as they ran back across the border. But I’m telling you, these guys’ [the agents] lives are being put on the line out there by fools running the show, putting solo Border Patrol agents out there to pursue these groups. They even have young female agents who aren’t very big out there by themselves. We’re there to back them up; they’re there to back us up, and they are continually telling us to be careful. They know the dangers we’re facing, and we try to reciprocate those feelings back to them. Many of them say they do more paperwork than patrolling some days.
Q: What concerns you most about the border if the government doesn’t get more serious about securing it?
A: Obviously, a terrorist attack. … Secondly, drugs continue to come across through the middle of nowhere. It’s an obvious dereliction of duty by the Drug Enforcement Agency and our government – this phony drug war that, of course, has been going on for decades now.
Thirdly, our social services, our hospitals, our schools – our nation cannot support millions of people just walking in here taking advantage of them. I think that’s what’s happening now across the country is that citizens are realizing the government is listening to us complain about the problem. [Politicians] reach into our pockets to take more of our money to pay for all the damage done because the government won’t spend the small amount of money that it would take to use about 5,000 troops and put them on our border.
The world has changed; our border needs to be secured. Whether it be a year or five years or whatever, we need to shut those borders down solid and force people to come through properly [and] check their identities.
I also think we’re taking a substantial health risk by leaving the borders porous. I’ve seen some darned sick people come across that border. There was a group of about 90 that we helped Border Patrol round up last week along the San Pedro River. … You would not believe the sad state these folks were in. They had been camping back on that river for days being held by a coyote who was taking them across a small group at a time. There were children in that group who were sick from drinking the [river] water; they had run out of [fresh] water. It was horrible; they had to airlift one little boy out because he was so sick he couldn’t walk. A couple women had babies with them; it was just the saddest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I feel terrible every time I go out there. Mexico needs to be held accountable for that; why aren’t these immigrant-rights groups holding Mexico accountable?
Q: Do you patrol armed?
Q: Have you had any trouble patrolling armed?
A: No. Only from the anti-gun people who say, in essence, “It’s OK if you patrol, but just patrol unarmed.”
Q: Do you feel as if your lives are threatened at times?
A: Absolutely. I’ve been shot at three times out here, and that’s not a fun feeling. We’ve lost some good people because of that; once they get shot at, they don’t come back. I keep telling everyone – and I reiterate it – the potential for danger is high. There’s no doubt we’re going to run into a group of drug smugglers who are not going to accept us trying to stop them. That’s the risk we take, I guess, and that’s how much we care about securing our borders. But no one in this group would ever pull a gun or shoot a gun unless we were attacked with lethal force.
Q: Are you vigilantes?
A: I think that’s absolutely ridiculous, and every time somebody labels us as such, I encourage them to pick up a dictionary and read about it. At first it kind of hurt my feelings, but anymore I’m numb to it. Just because we’re good-hearted, well-intentioned citizens who actually have the courage to do something rather than sit around and wring our hands and complain, other people want to label us.
Vigilantes take the law into their hands to be judge, jury and executioner. We don’t punish people; we just protect our borders and our people from potential crime. We’re doing the job. If somebody wants to slander and defame us, let them. It’s not working. [Recently] L.A. Times Magazine labeled me, “The world’s No. 1 vigilante.” But it was actually a pretty balanced article. We’re doing what’s right, and we’re doing it responsibly and humanely. History will prove us right.
Q: Do you put your life on the line out there?
A: Yes, sir. You bet I do.
Q: How do feel about that?
A: I feel pretty damned angry at my government that we have to do that. I do. But I’m not working against my government, I’m not fighting against my government. I’m fighting for our Constitution, our Bill of Rights and the survival of our future and our government. The way I’m working against my government will be to vote them out of office, and we have strong coalitions that are growing for that purpose. I told [one visiting U.S. senator], “I can guarantee you’ll be re-elected if you vote to put troops on our border. But if you don’t, we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure you’re not re-elected. They nod their heads, “Oh, we feel your pain,” then reach into our pockets to take more of our money to pay for the damage they caused in the first place.