January 12, 2023

Warren, Markey, Booker Raise Alarm over Vigilante Groups Patrolling Southern U.S. Border

Lawmakers call on Biden administration to prioritize reining in violent paramilitary vigilantes

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Administrator Troy Miller expressing serious concerns over the rise of paramilitary vigilante groups patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border and unlawfully intimidating, harassing, and detaining immigrants, sometimes in collaboration with, or with approval from, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, including CBP agents. Following the Biden administration’s announcement of new border enforcement policies and President Biden’s subsequent visit to the border, the lawmakers are urging them to crack down on vigilante groups that undermine the rule of law, as well as the rights and safety of noncitizens. 

“For years, unlawful paramilitary organizations have engaged in unofficial border missions — reminiscent of Ku Klux Klan border patrols  — intended to illegally detain and harass immigrants. … Absent federal action cracking down on their unauthorized behavior, vigilante groups will continue to operate and weaken the government’s ability to maintain migrant safety, protect human rights, and defend the rule of law at the border,” wrote the senators

Since 2021, vigilante and paramilitary groups such as Veterans on Patrol and Patriots for America have been canvassing the border to lure and intercept noncitizens and turn them over to Border Patrol agents. Reports from the American Civil Liberties Union found that vigilante groups collaborate directly with local and state law enforcement officials, and even federal agents, like CBP agents. The senators also note that CBP also failed to properly discipline employees who are members of a Facebook group that threatened noncitizens and elected officials. 

Given these concerns, the senators are calling on the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and CBP to  respond to a set of questions about paramilitary and vigilante activity at the border by January 30, 2023. 

Senator Warren has led ongoing efforts to protect the rights of immigrants and asylum seekers and hold the United States accountable to its humanitarian obligations.

  • In November 2022, Senator Warren led her colleagues in a letter to CBP and CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) raising concerns about the final report released by CBP OPR regarding the treatment of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas.
  • In September 2022, Senator Warren released a statement condemning efforts to use asylum seekers as political pawns and committing to assisting communities in need.
  • In April 2022, Senator Warren and her colleagues sent a private inquiry to CBP requesting information on CBP OPR’s’s progress in their investigation of the events that occurred in Del Rio, Texas. 
  • In February 2021, Senator Warren joined Senator Booker, Representative Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and their colleagues in a letter to President Biden, urging him to reverse inhumane immigration policies, such as Title 42, that disproportionately harm Black migrants. 
  • In November 2021, Senator Warren stated her opposition to the continued use of the Title 42 program and called for the Biden administration to rescind this policy.
  • In October 2021, Senator Warren joined Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) in criticizing the inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants and called on the administration to support long-term stability in Haiti.  
  • In October 2021, during his confirmation hearing to be Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, Senator Warren called for Commissioner Chris Magnus to commit to transparency regarding the investigation into the events in Del Rio, Texas. 
  • In December 2019, Senator Warren joined a letter to the Trump Administration calling for the removal of Stephen Miller from his role due to his support for racist and xenophobic immigration policies.