Troubling reports involving border patrol agents have surfaced as a result of the humanitarian crisis with migrant children.
As reports of thousands of children seeking refuge from violence plaguing Central America came to light several weeks ago, two radically different reactions were set into motion. Humanitarian groups across the country sprang into action to assist the children who fled across the border alone or were separated from caretakers while thousands of concerned Americans donated clothes, food and supplies. On the flip side, politically extreme nativist groups started using the crisis to amplify calls for increased deportations and dehumanizing rhetoric directed at the children and all immigrants.
Individuals from the anti-immigrant movement, some previously active in Minutemen and border vigilante groups, staged a protest in Murrieta, California, last week, surrounding buses of women and children with signs that read, “Protect your Kids from Diseases,” and “Send Them Back With Birth Control.”
Now evidence has surfaced that border patrol agents might be colluding with anti-immigrant extremists, and perhaps some involved in the Murrieta protests. Here are two examples:
- Ron Zermeno, a border patrol union official who leaked information regarding the children arriving in Murrieta is sympathetic to anti-immigrant groups – even hosting a resource page on the local union’s website that links almost exclusively to anti-immigrant and Minutemen groups.
- Jeff Schwilk of San Diegans for Secure Borders Coalition (and more infamously the founder of the San Diego Minutemen), bragged to members in a July 9 email that he was being leaked intelligence about the unaccompanied children from a “senior border patrol source in San Diego.”
Jeff Schwilk was the long-time leader of the vile and violent San Diego Minutemen (SDMM). He is also the founder of the San Diego Oath Keepers. The Oath Keepers are a dangerous “Patriot” group that recruits soldiers, police and veterans to its ranks in order to resist what it considers a tyrannical, foreign-born president and a government that is planning to turn on its citizens. Schwilk’s history (and that of SDMM) is bizarre to say the least.
In 2007, members of the SDMM, including Schwilk, were shown on a homemade video vandalizing a migrant camp, rifling through the residents’ possessions and bragging about destroying their prayer items. The footage encapsulates just how far Schwilk and his SDMM cohorts have been willing to go, but the emails between SDMM members that were later leaked in 2008 illustrate a shocking disregard for human life. In them, SDMM members repeatedly refer to immigrants as “cockroaches” and “Third-World animals.” One email, dated June 2007, says that Minutemen members patrolling the border for immigrants should bring “a portable battery operated freezer … for storage of filets, hams and ribs of well-marbled border crossers.”
Jeff Schwilk confirmed in a July 10 email that he joined anti-immigrant protesters in Murrieta for more than three hours that day. The protest was the final one scheduled by anti-immigrant activists after police officials announced Central American children will no longer be transported to the San Diego for processing. Murrieta protesters will conclude their anti-immigrant demonstrations with a “Murrieta Border Patrol Appreciation” event on July 23.
The potential fact that border agents are colluding with extremists is especially concerning since we know that border security representatives already enjoy a cozy relationship with influential anti-immigrant groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Center for Immigration Studies.
Chris Crane, president of a small union representing ICE deportation agents, is among them.
- In 2012, Crane was the plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging DACA. Kris Kobach (who works for FAIR) represented Crane and nine other ICE agents in the case, and the lawsuit was financially supported by NumbersUSA. The case was dismissed by a federal judge on July 31, 2013.
- Crane attended FAIR’s 2013 Hold Their Feet to the Fire radio event. During the event Crane also participated in a press conference with Sen. Jeff Sessions, a close ally of aforementioned groups, and other law enforcement officials.
- In 2013, Crane published a letter denouncing support for immigration reform. FAIR and NumbersUSA republished the letter and urged their supporters to call Congressional members in response to ask them to oppose renewed efforts at an immigration reform deal.
- Crane has testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) in opposition to immigration reform and testified seven times before the full House Judiciary Committee and Immigration Subcommittee dating back to November 2011.
National Border Patrol Council (NCPC) President Brandon Judd also has a questionable relationship to aforementioned anti-immigrant groups.
- Judd appeared in a 2010 video produced by Center for Immigration Studies in which he discusses how the Border Patrol lacks sufficient manpower to effectively patrol areas surrounding the border and nearby checkpoints.
- In 2011, Judd was quoted discussing wildfires in Southern Arizona, telling The Arizona Daily Star, “We definitely believe that the majority of these fires are started by illegal aliens.” No such proof was ever put forth, however.
Jill Garvey is the Executive Director of the Center for New Community.