Facebook has active policy in place that targets “organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence.” This policy should ban from the site border militias and associated figures that frequently suggest armed violence against asylum-seekers and others who arrive through the southern border.
But a tech watchdog says that the social media platform is violating its own policy by continuing to allow border vigilantes to fester on the site. Some posts noted by the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) are direct calls to violence, showing border militias encouraging vigilantes to show up to the border armed in order to “turn this trash back.”
RELATED STORY: Anti-immigrant gunman who called himself 'eyes for America' was in illegal possession of firearm
Highlighted posts show Texas Border Patriots as a prolific instigator of potential violence against migrants at the southern border. The group’s administrator, Wyatt Watson, has authored posts instructing followers to “pack a bag, weapon up and be ready to move.’ In another post, he wrote that men in Texas should ‘form skirmish units and turn this trash back,’” TTP said.
Another member of Texas Border Patriots explicitly called for violence in a June 2022 post, demanding that thousands flock to the border for a “massive show of force.” The poster called for gatherings at a port of entry in order to target “illegals,” saying “they must be stopped.” Seeking asylum is legal immigration under our law, it must be said.
It’s unclear how many on-the-ground members Texas Border Patriots has within its ranks, but on Facebook, it’s been allowed to gain more than 2,600 members despite running afoul of platform rules. “These posts suggest that Texas Border Patriots should be banned under Facebook parent company Meta’s Dangerous Organizations policy,” TTP said. Yet they remain despite border vigilantes having a history of waging harassment campaigns and threats against migrants.
Daily Kos’ Dave Neiwert, an expert on this issue, noted one border vigilante who in 2021 filmed herself harassing migrants, including children. “Why are you here?” AZ Patriots’ Jennifer Harrison can be heard asking one family. Harrison was also seen demanding identification from migrants. One man, perhaps confused that this Desert Karen was a U.S. official, complied and pulled out his vaccine card to show.
She also questioned the migrant as to whether he’d had a COVID-19 test. Some bold requests considering many of these types don’t believe in masking or vaccines. By the way, throughout these interactions, Border Patrol vehicles were clearly stationed nearby. Migrants did not appear to be trying to evade them. They instead went right to them, likely in hopes of making their asylum claim. So much for the chaos commonly pushed by the right-wing.
“TTP also found border militias drawing on the baseless QAnon conspiracy to claim that migrant children are frequent victims of sex trafficking, despite a lack of evidence for that,” the report continued. In one horrific incident a year ago, a butterfly sanctuary that had for years fought border wall construction was forced to temporarily shut down after it was targeted by extremists, including a GOP candidate from Virginia, espousing human trafficking conspiracy theory. It was a butterfly sanctuary.
Other lies pushed by border vigilantes include claims of an “invasion,” an intentionally inflammatory term commonly used by racist mass killers and GOP politicians alike. Last summer, right-wing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order purporting to give state law enforcement the power to detain and return recently crossed migrants to the border. This order featured this “invasion” clearly popular with border militias.
There is no invasion, but there are the real domestic terror threats that have nothing to do with migrants and everything to do with right-wing extremists who hate them. And Facebook is helping these far-right actors spread their violent and nativist beliefs to thousands of people through its platform, in violation of its own rules. “Border militia and vigilante groups have a long history of targeting migrants in the U.S.,” TTP concludes. “But Facebook is giving them an unprecedented platform to coordinate their activities—and amplify misinformation and conspiracy theories about migrants.”
Far-right vigilante militias on U.S.–Mexico border enjoy a cozy relationship with Border Patrol
Far-right AZ Patriots show up at border crossing to hassle asylum seekers: ‘Why are you here?’
How a small border town in Arizona grouped together to give border vigilantes the boot