On Patrol
Posted: Nov 24, 2014 10:05 PM
Updated: Nov 24, 2014 10:47 PM


HIDALGO COUNTY - A group of volunteers is patrolling the region in an effort to secure the border.

The men are members of the Texas Defense Network. They don military-looking clothing and carry semiautomatic rifles.
Group leaders say their mission is to observe and report.

"It's our tactical advantage to be in camouflage because they'll just pass right by. That's what we want. We don't want them to see us. We just call it in and let the appropriate agency take care of it," the group's captain said.

The man at the top of the command chain protected people his whole life.

"When I was a young man, I volunteered to go into the Marine Corps and fight for my country. I was in the Vietnam conflict. Now that I'm old and retired, I've volunteered to protect my community," the group' colonel said.

The men hide their faces behind a mask. They don't want to endanger their families.

The group's colonel, captain and staff sergeant lead at least two teams of people across brush land. They look for people crossing the border illegally.

"We are all from the Valley, born and raised ... local people. This problem has been around for many decades. It's getting worse," the captain said.

Members of the group say they are not a militia.

"I really hate it when people use the word militia. It's negative, I should say," one member said.

The Texas Defense Network is unlike other groups. They notify authorities before beginning a patrol.

They let authorities know of anything happening along the border.

A CHANNEL 5 NEWS crew followed the group during a recent patrol. The men act like a military unit.

The men set up watch perimeters and look out for scouts. They often sit for hours in silence watching and waiting.

They travel from site to site using public roads.

"Out here, anything can happen," the group's colonel said.

Law enforcement stopped the group three times over the course of 15 miles during the night CHANNEL 5 NEWS tagged along.

"I saw you guys coming down here. You're a little out of place," an agent told the men.

"We're out here patrolling. We belong to a program called Texas Defense Network," the group's colonel said.
"Is that a semi-automatic weapon?" the agent asked.

"Mind if I take a look at it?" the agent said.

"No problem at all. Just be careful, I have a round in the chamber," the colonel told the agent.

"He wants to make sure the gun is legal ... make sure it's not stolen or anything like that," the colonel told CHANNEL 5 NEWS.

"We're all good people. We all have our CHL (concealed handgun license)," the captain told Texas Department of Public Safety troopers.

"It's different ... so much. It's changed," a trooper said.

"I came here in past operations. This is a different world down here now," the trooper said.

"We did an operation last October... (it) hit it hard and heavy. I was shocked ... the violence, the home invasions, the thefts of vehicles, the kidnappings. I don't live here, but this state is my home," the trooper said.

The trooper thanked the members of the Texas Defense Network for volunteering.

The troopers and agents on the line do not speak for their agencies, though.

The Border Patrol's official stance of the group is they "do not support any private group or organization from taking matters into their own hands as it could have disastrous personal and public safety consequences... CBP appreciates the efforts of concerned citizens as they act as our eyes and ears." (See the full statement below)

"This is still our home. We shouldn't let the drug runners or coyotes take over the area and create an environment of fear," the group's staff sergeant said.

"It's sad what this area has turned into ... it's not what it was when I was growing up," he said.

The men said they work at random times. They will keep up their patrols until the area is safe again.

Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol - Armed Militia Statement

CBP does not endorse or support any private group or organization from taking matters into their own hands as it could have disastrous personal and public safety consequences.

CBP appreciates the efforts of concerned citizens as they act as our eyes and ears.

CBP strongly encourages concerned citizens to call the U.S. Border Patrol and/or local law enforcement authorities if they witness or suspect illegal activity.

Securing our nation's borders can be dangerous. Interdicting narcotics and deterring and apprehending individuals illegally entering the United States requires highly-trained, law enforcement personnel. Border Patrol agents undergo months of specialized training and are uniquely qualified to do this type of work.

In all cases, individuals should refrain from providing transportation or other assistance to migrants that may be viewed as furtherance of illegal entry. This type of assistance to an undocumented migrant could result in prosecution.

Oscar Saldaña
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent
Rio Grande Valley Sector