Posted: Jul 03, 2010 9:38 PM MST
Updated: Jul 04, 2010 3:58 PM MST
Reporter: Claire Doan
TOMBSTONE, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) – Instead of barbecuing with family or traveling for vacation, members of the Cochise County Militia are spending their holiday weekend staking out spots near the border to fight illegal immigration and drug smuggling.
Trained militia members are patrolling various desert areas near Tombstone starting Saturday afternoon, hoping to spot illegal immigrants and drug traffickers who are making their way across the border.
"Certainly, I would rather be home barbecuing. My wife begged me not to come. But it's something inside that I have to do," said Arthur Tomlin, who is patrolling for the first time since the group started the tradition nearly a decade ago. "I'm not trying to paint a patriotic picture here. I am just concerned."
Many members say they are filling a gap left by a federal government that has failed to address the problem of border crime and local governments that lack the resources and funding to attacking a growing problem.
"Our local people are overwhelmed and they're doing all that they can…It's the federal government that refuses to come down here to protect us," said Harold Hubbard, who believes organized drug and human trafficking have increased over the last couple of years have. "We have to protect ourselves."
The men are armed, they say, purely for self-defense.
"I have a nine-millimeter and a shotgun with some pretty heavy loads. You know, I don't want to shoot anybody but I don't want anybody to shoot me either," Tomlin said.
Bill Davis founder of the Cochise County Militia say members contact Border Patrol as soon as they spot illegal immigrants, and Border Patrol has been very receptive towards their efforts.
"We do not apprehend. We do not chase. We do not follow. We contact border patrol every time we see any kind of illegal activity going on wherever we're located," said member Jene Kambouris.
Some members say the patrolling is not a political statement; rather, it's a matter of increasing safety for the communities near the border.
"[Drug cartels] are getting more daring with the weapons and the shootings right next to the border coming over this way. Somebody's has to do something and maybe this is our way of bringing light to the situation," Tomlin said.