It’s time to take a stand

Rise above provocation and choose decency.

 

There is no crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. In fact, apprehensions of illegal crossings have plummeted over the last two decades, from 1.6 million in 1999 to just 400,000 in 2018, according to the U.S. Border Patrol. It is true that an increasing number of families are fleeing civil strife in Central America and seeking safe harbor here, as they have the legal right to do. For their efforts, they are being separated, detained, pushed into self-deportation and otherwise harassed in what is becoming one of the darker periods of U.S. history.

“No Militia” signs stand outside the humanitarian aid office in the middle of the one-block downtown of Arivaca, Arizona.

Most troubling on the border, though, is the presence of militias. Fueled by the xenophobic rhetoric of our president, these groups of armed men and women believe they are doing the country a favor by “assisting” the Border Patrol. One group in New Mexico, the United Constitutional Patriots, recently changed its name and moved to an undisclosed camp, after its armed members were accused of holding a group of border-crossers against their will — an act otherwise known as kidnapping. This kind of vigilantism plagued the lawless American West throughout the 19th century. Today, it represents an intricate fantasy world that is both sad and dangerous, as fake soldiers with real weapons threaten the safety of actual civilians fleeing actual violence.

Luckily, common sense can and sometimes does prevail. As this issue’s cover story shows, citizens along the border are getting fed up with the ongoing antics of militias. In one town, Arivaca, Arizona, a coalition of residents has come together to resist, refuse and otherwise retaliate against militia activity. Writer Tay Wiles, who follows extremism throughout the West, assembles an intimate portrait of the town and the impacts that militia and violence have had there over the years. There, militia members are banned from some establishments, and residents have put plans in place to protect each other if these armed interlopers carry out any of the (mostly) hollow threats they have made against the town. As one resident tells Wiles: “We need to take a stand.”

Brian Calvert, editor-in-chief
Brooke Warren/High Country News

We should all learn from Arivaca, where neighborliness and decency have risen above national politics and provocation. In today’s political climate, it is becoming all too tempting to bar the door, turn down the lights, and tweet from the safety of the couch. I would encourage everybody who truly cares about the West to take their own stand, wherever they may be. The region is facing many challenges, but every hand helps. If a militia has moved into town, ban it. If a racist makes a snide comment, confront him. If a colleague claims that climate change is a hoax, correct her. We can all act together on behalf of the American West, and right now that means standing against ignorance, racism and intolerance, in any form, whether it comes from the border, the White House or the house next door.

Brian Calvert is the editor-in-chief of High Country News. Submit a letter to the editor

High Country News Classifieds
  • WESTERN WATER PROJECT MANAGER
    National Wildlife Federation is hiring NM-based position focused on riparian corridors, watershed health. Learn more and apply online: https://www.nwf.org/about-us/careers
  • ASSOCIATE PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Associate Program Director Location: New Mexico; flexible in state Position reports to: Senior Program Director Position Closes: March 13, 2020 GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The...
  • DEAN, W. A. FRANKE COLLEGE OF FORESTRY AND CONSERVATION, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
    Dean, W. A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, apply http://bit.ly/2548umjobs. AA/EEO/ADA/Veterans Preference Employer
  • GRAPHIC DESIGNER
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a creative and driven graphic design professional to design high quality print and digital collateral. The Graphic Designer will bring...
  • STEWARDSHIP SPECIALIST
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks experienced person to manage its 133 conservation easements in south-central Colorado.
  • CAMPAIGN REPRESENTATIV
    Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign is hiring an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry on the Gulf...
  • AG LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Oregon Agricultural Trust (OAT) seeks passionate relationship builder experienced in coordinating agricultural conservation easement transactions.
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • FINANCE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Coms/Engagmnt Mngr; Dev/Engagmnt Dir; Americorps vol
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND ENGAGEMENT MANAGER
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Dev/Engagement Dir; Coms/Engagement Mngr; & Americorps volunteer
  • SEASONAL TRAIL CREW LEADERS
    Lead the nation's premier volunteer-based trail crew programs on the spectacular Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. This is a great career-building opportunity for rising professionals....
  • ORGANIZING AND TRAINING COORDINATOR
    Is this your dream job? Are you looking to join a nationally recognized organizing network, live in a spectacular part of the West, and work...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND ADVOCACY DIRECTOR
    Provide stewardship and protection for the Great Burn wildlands along the Montana-Idaho stateline. This position is based in Missoula, MT, where a river runs through...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Central Oregon LandWatch is seeking an Executive Director to advance our mission and oversee the development of the organization. Job Description: The Executive Director oversees...
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • SAN JUAN BASIN ENERGY CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance is seeking a full-time San Juan Energy Campaign Organizer located in Farmington, New Mexico. The San Juan Energy Campaign Organizer focuses...
  • WILDLIFE PROGRAM MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance (SJCA) is looking for a passionate, experienced, and motivated Wildlife Program Manager to lead campaigns to protect and enhance wildlife and...
  • GRANT WRITER
    "This thriving citizens organization exemplifies the ideal of public involvement in public processes."- Billings Gazette Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, &...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER AND MEMBERSHIP COORDINATOR
    Western Colorado Alliance is hiring for 4 positions, 2 Full Time Community Organizers, 1 Part Time Community Organizer and a Part Time Membership Coordinator. For...
  • BUSINESS OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    Thorne Nature Experience is looking for a Business Operations Director who will work in partnership with the Executive Director and Thorne's Directors and Managers to...