Posted: Jul 28, 2014 6:27 PM
Updated: Jul 28, 2014 6:27 PM
McALLEN - A member of the South Texas Minuteman Civil Defense Corps says her group seeks to help authorities by observing and reporting what happens along the Rio Grande.
Olivia Garza is one of approximately 80 members the group has from Corpus Christi to La Joya.
Garza, a Brownsville native, said she wants to set the record straight about her organization in the wake of criticism from some Valley residents.
"What we'd like to let the public know, especially local citizens, that we're a coalition of concerned citizens ... patriots if you want to call us," Garza said.
Garza said she takes her duties as the group's spokesperson very seriously. She showed a CHANNEL 5 NEWS crew the identification badge and cap she uses when out on patrol with her colleagues.
Garza said the group is made up of native South Texans. She said their mission is to protect the region from illegal immigration.
"We've been at this for about 10 years," Garza said.
"We knew this was going to happen. We knew this surge of illegals would come through eventually," she said.
"We could see where our government was really not implementing our laws. ... We're just seeing a big, big surge of illegal, people coming through. I expect it to get worse," Garza said.
Garza said her group is against illegal-immigrant crossings.
"We know that they're being victimized, but the ones that are victimizing them are their own countries and their own governments," she said.
"We must make a stand and have these countries take care of their own people. We can no longer do it. We've got so many people here in the Valley that need help. ... Our veterans need help; I'd like to see our money go there and not to these countries that are corrupt," Garza said.
Garza said private property owners are asking them for help. They are helping three landowners in Hidalgo County. She believes the group's presence alone helps keep immigrants from crossing.
"We're talking about properties, areas that law enforcement does not go to. When they do go, it's too late," she said.
Garza said the group is made up of people from the region.
"We are local citizens. We were born and we were raised here. We're not from the north. We're not northerners," she said.
"When people say, ‘we don't want them here, send them back up north,' we can really, honestly say well we live here," Garza said.
Some Valley residents have expressed concern about the group's use of weapons. They fear the group members may hurt someone.
Garza said all members are licensed to carry weapons, but made it clear that they don't use them.
"We are not there to engage in any gunfight. That is the last thing we want for any of our members to have to go through or to have to do. Our order is that they retreat," she said.
Garza said they will continue to patrol on private property as long as the problem exists and as long as they have permission.
Garza said the group's members are Good Samaritans. She said they are trained as first responders and will not turn their back on someone who needs medical attention even if that person is an illegal immigrant.