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More than two dozen groups called on Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to investigate and respond to potentially illegal activity by paramilitary organizations on the United States’ southern border. In addition to threatening the safety and wellbeing of individuals in the border region, unauthorized paramilitary groups are using the area as a training ground in order to undermine the rule of law more broadly.

“These groups are attempting to build power to advance their ideology, too often in conjunction with government institutions,” says the letter. “Paramilitary groups that gain legitimacy by claiming to–or actually–working with police or Border Patrol are a troubling example of this. Unfortunately, democratic institutions from the local to the federal level, including law enforcement, have largely failed to collectively and firmly reject these dangerous movements.”

The letter’s signers represent a broad coalition of organizations focused on defending human rights, preventing political violence and upholding legal protections for immigrants and other populations. 

“The growing threat posed by paramilitary and militia groups in the southern border region demands federal action,” said Eric K. Ward, executive director of Western States Center, which organized the letter. “It’s incumbent on the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to treat this situation with the urgency that it demands. We know that inclusive democracy isn’t compatible with the agenda of unauthorized paramilitary groups who want to take the law–as they see it–into their own hands. Their bigoted ideology and their willingness to flout the law present a clear threat to our democratic institutions. We need the federal government to deliver a response that matches the scope of the problem.”

The letters signers include the ACLU-NM, Arizona Justice For Our Neighbors, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, Human Rights First, Human Rights First, Humane Borders, Indivisible,the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, Integrity First for America, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Project (NIPNLG), Princeton Bridging Divides Initiative, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Southern Border Communities Coalition, Southern Poverty Law Center, Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, UndocuBlack Network, UndocuBlack Network, United We Dream, Veterans for American Ideals, and the Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center.

A full copy of the letter is available here: https://www.westernstatescenter.org/border-activity-letter  

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To arrange an interview with one of the letter's organizers, contact press@wscpdx.org

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