"Humanitarians" with Guns
Meet the vigilante group, and QAnon conspiracy theorists, intercepting unaccompanied minors at the Arizona-Mexico Border, and the Border Patrol seems fine with it.
A militia that espouses QAnon conspiracies is intercepting unaccompanied minors at the border wall in Arizona. They take the phone numbers of the children’s sponsors and, in some cases, confront the sponsors at their homes in the United States.
The group is called Veterans on Patrol and is led by Michael Lewis Arthur Meyer, who is not a veteran. On Telegram and other online platforms, Meyers regularly spreads QAnon-inspired falsehoods about Satanists running child-trafficking rings at the border, linking it to the work of Democrats, Catholic Charities, and other humanitarian groups, as well as “globalists” and the “deep state.”
In 2018 Meyer claimed that a homeless encampment in Tucson was a child-sex-trafficking camp, spurring a Pizza-gate style hysteria, which was investigated and debunked by local police. In December 2021 he was convicted for criminal damage and trespassing after destroying water stations in the desert operated by the Tucson nonprofit Humane Borders. Meyer believes that humanitarian groups leaving water in the desert are working with drug cartels to facilitate child-sex trafficking. After he failed to appear at his sentencing, a bench warrant was issued for Meyer’s arrest in January. Recently, he traveled to Idaho, where he’s inserted himself into a family’s volatile child custody case.
Despite the outstanding warrant, Meyer, who often refers to himself as a minister, is frequently online and at the Arizona-Mexico border recruiting volunteers and requesting gift cards, supplies, and other donations. Shawna Martin, who calls herself Butterfly, said she met Meyer in Spokane, Washington, and has been at the Arizona border since September with Veterans on Patrol.
I met Martin in early March. She was standing next to a gold Honda sedan parked near the border wall a few miles east of the Sásabe, Arizona, port of entry. At this stretch of border wall—which was built in a rush before Trump left office—there are several gaps among the wall’s 30-foot-high, rust-colored bollards. It is through these gaps that unaccompanied children and parents with children cross into the United States, often at night, to request asylum.
For some months, Veterans on Patrol has staked out this remote section of border wall. Before Title 42 was implemented during the pandemic by the Trump administration in 2020, Sásabe, Sonora, rarely saw migrants. But it now receives hundreds of people every week who have been automatically expelled under the federal public health statute. Under Title 42, ports of entry are closed to asylum seekers.
Near the border wall were the remnants of a bonfire, which the militia members light at night. Martin said they call Border Patrol and sit with the children until they are picked up by agents.
Martin, who under her khaki vest wore a holstered 22-caliber pistol and a hunting knife in a leather sheath, was on day duty, she told me. Inside the Honda, Martin, sporting a black baseball cap that read “Outlaws against pedophiles,” showed me a cooler filled with snacks, gift bags, and children’s Bibles in Spanish. She said the migrant children were being sex trafficked to “pedos” or being killed and their organs harvested for “satanic sacrificial holidays,” including Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and the Super Bowl. All this, she said, is funded by the U.S. government. “They’re paying for the children to be taken to their next trafficking location,” she said. “There’s a lot of baby sacrifice going on right now.”
Martin said she had received much of this information from Meyer, and that Jesus had called her to the border because “the Satanists are sacrificing kids like crazy.”
Martin said one of her jobs was to collect the phone numbers of sponsors, often carried on scraps of paper by unaccompanied minors when they arrive in the United States to be reunited with parents and relatives. “I get the intel and send it up the ladder,” she said. The numbers are sent to “pedo hunter groups,” she said, including the Dragon’s Den and Operation Underground Railroad, who are “Americans that care and love kids, and who will go to the sponsors’ homes, stake them out, and confront and extract the kids if it’s needed.”
In December, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote about how Martin and Meyer collected a 16-year-old boy’s contact information at the border. Later, Dragon’s Den members showed up at the boy’s relative’s home in Bellevue, Washington, to question the relative about how long the boy would stay there and his relationship to him.
The Spanish Bibles that Martin hands out are inscribed with messages in Spanish instructing the children to call Meyer or the Dragon’s Den if they need help. “My Spanish is horrible,” she said. “I have a little 10-year-old who helps babysit with his mom back at alpha camp, and he’ll help me write them.”
In a recent post on VOP’s Telegram channel BORDERWARSAZ, Meyer wrote that they collected the sponsor number from a 16-year-old Guatemalan girl named Lizeth. Meyer contacted her father in Texas, writing that he was “the minister” who had helped Lizeth at the border” and asked whether she had arrived at his home yet.
Martin said they’ve interacted with hundreds of unaccompanied children, most of them Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, and Cuban. The majority arrive at the gaps in the border wall between midnight and 4 a.m., she said. “The most I’ve had at one time personally was 38 children, ranging from ages four to 14.”
I contacted Customs and Border Protection, which oversees Border Patrol, to ask why they didn’t have agents patrolling near the gaps at night if they knew so many children were arriving there each week. Border Patrol Agents are tasked with taking the children to a Border Patrol holding facility then sending them to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, which contacts, and vets their sponsors, usually a close relative or parent, before releasing them with an immigration court date.
I asked CBP whether agents were aware of Martin, Meyer, and other VOP volunteers taking sponsor information from the children. And I asked for statistics on Border Patrol apprehensions of unaccompanied minors and families near Sásabe, Arizona, which, as I wrote in a previous post, is a remote area in the Altar Valley south of Tucson.
A CBP spokesperson replied in an email that the agency can’t discuss “operational deployments” and that it doesn’t keep apprehension data below the sector level.
Martin said she’ll stay at the border as long as the children keep coming. “We’ve had a small number of volunteers, and we’ve been working to exhaustion,” she said. On the afternoon I visited, Martin was accompanied by Meyer’s dog, a husky mix named General Han Solo. The dog, she said, can tell the difference between an unaccompanied minor and a cartel smuggler disguised as one. “We had a bunch of kids coming through, and Solo was loving on each of them. The last one said he was 17, and Solo bit him, because he knew he was lying. So he’s a great asset.”
After leaving Martin, I drove farther east with three volunteers from the Green Valley–Sahuarita Samaritans, a group that leaves water in the desert for migrants. Within minutes we encountered a 17-year-old Guatemalan girl standing alone near the border wall, having just come through one of the gaps. The girl was near tears from her ordeal in Mexico, having lost her backpack and been chased by Mexican police. She said she wanted to turn herself in to Border Patrol so that she could be reunited with her aunt and uncle in Spokane, Washington. One of the samaritans phoned Border Patrol to come and pick her up. The Border Patrol dispatcher asked whether we were with Veterans on Patrol.
Afterward, I wrote to the CBP spokesperson about my experience. What type of working relationship, if any, does Border Patrol have with the militia? I asked. He responded in an email: “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.” Despite repeated requests for comment, the spokesperson did not respond to questions about Border Patrol’s relationship with the militia and whether agents were aware that Meyer, Martin, and other VOP volunteers had been taking sponsor information from unaccompanied minors.
“They’re frustrated,” Martin said of the agents. “They’re dealing with the vaccine being pushed on them. They’re undermanned and understaffed. I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up flipping and coming over to our side.”
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