AUSTIN, Texas — During a recent speech I delivered in early September, two separate members of my audience here in Texas openly voiced a desire to take their firearms to the border and kill illegal immigrants. The two men in my audience had gotten angry with my explanation, during the question and answer part, for why Texas Governor Greg Abbott probably would not be able to legally deport immigrants on state legal authority. One of the men, clearly angry and not quipping, named a particular long-range rifle he thought would work well, as though some thought had gone into this.
As soon as I was alone, I reported what I heard to federal and state law enforcement intelligence.
From my nine years working as an analyst and manager for the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division, I recognized what I’d heard as an indicator of domestic terrorism that had to be reported. The next day, I called around among a community of those who advocate for an end to the current mass migration crisis, the worst in American history. I asked if they too were hearing frustrated Texans speak of a compulsion to murder illegal immigrants.
Two of them told me they’d been hearing that extremist sentiment a lot in recent months. They said it came from the fact that President Joe Biden’s administration fomented and encourages the historic torrent through the state’s border with Mexico and Abbott doesn’t seem willing to stop it.
I feel compelled now to write about this brewing, dangerous extremism in light of recent news that the Hudspeth County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Rangers arrested two brothers from Sierra Blanca, Texas, for opening fire September 27 on a group of 13 illegal immigrants who were drinking from a reservoir just off a highway. Mark and Michael Sheppard, who works as a warden at an area ICE detention facility, face manslaughter charges in the shooting death of one immigrant just south of town and of critically injuring another migrant woman. The suspects claim they thought they were shooting at wild javelinas, a species of wild native pigs. But surviving witnesses told police someone in the truck first yelled out in Spanish, “Come out you sons of bitches, little asses.” Liberal illegal immigration proponents immediately alleged the brothers were domestic terrorists who acted out of racial animus.
The investigation, which at least initially included the FBI, hasn’t revealed an undisputed motivation as of this writing. The brothers deny any intentional wrongdoing and were allowed to bond out of jail.
They are innocent until proven otherwise. But I won’t be surprised to learn, if they are judged to have wittingly shot the immigrants, that frustration with state and federal government motivated the brothers and will motivate others.
Sheena Rodriguez, a proponent of ending the mass migration crisis who spends much time on the border as president of Alliance for a Safe Texas, told me she won’t be surprised either. Something terrible is brewing in the Texas tea.
“I’ve heard that a lot — a lot,” Rodriguez said when I asked her if she’d been hearing frustrated Texans talk of murdering illegal border-crossers. “You get a lot of the comments, people making statements that ‘These are desolate areas and everyone’s got a back hoe and a lot of acreage.’ They will say, ‘People need to strap on guns and go down to the border.’ You know, what they’re trying to say, is that no one will ever know if they go on a killing spree.”
“I think we’re getting to the point where, because the state [of Texas] is limited in what they’re willing to do and the federal government is incentivizing this, that tensions are really high, and people are willing to fill a gap that they feel their state and government are unwilling to do,” Rodriguez said.
Some of the extremist thinking seemed aimed at law enforcement officers who they see welcoming the immigrants in over the border, under orders from above to do so, she said.
“A lot of people on the, quote-unquote right are upset with law enforcement officials, where they’re calling them traitors as though they’re going to fill the gap and go Batman.”
Another advocate who speaks a lot publicly and spends a lot of time along the border also reported hearing Texas residents on the conservative side of the political spectrum speak of taking matters into their own hands with firearms, out of intense frustration that no one will stop the illegal border crossings. This person declined to be interviewed on the record but the stories sounded similar to what I and Rodriguez have picked up.
In my current capacity as a writer, researcher, and speaker about border security, I feel obliged to call out this apparent tilt toward extremist violence in Texas for condemnation and to challenge anyone else who discerns a willingness to murder illegal immigrants to report those intentions immediately to authorities here.
Anyone who favors rational, good-faith border security need not be reminded that violent vigilantism is not part of their movement. But I’ll remind all advocates of border security that they must not only condemn vigilante murder as an option the moment they hear it, but also help law enforcement separate them from the movement — just as mainstream Democrats should have condemned and rooted out Antifa rioters from their movement during nationwide 2020 riots, but never did.