They caught no immigrants or drug smugglers, but it wasn't for lack of trying. A self-described militia group called the Three Percent United Patriots recently staged an operation along the border in southern Arizona, and unbeknownst to the group, an undercover journalist was in their midst. Shane Bauer provides a lengthy first-person account in Mother Jones. Generally speaking, he spends the days-long operation alongside a group of heavily armed white men worried about government overreach or more generally about losing power themselves. Many are vets drawn to the jolt of excitement from the military-style patrols. On his first outing, Bauer—or "Cali" as he's known to the group—is teamed up with 55-year-old "Doc," who wants to be ready to fight UN troops he thinks will someday be patrolling US streets.
It sounds extreme, but for Doc and others, the militia is almost a safety outlet, writes Bauer. "It seems to rein them in by giving them a sense of purpose." Another man Bauer is teamed with calls operations like this a form of "therapy." On Bauer's patrols, the most noteworthy thing that occurs is the discovery of several backpacks filled with water, food, and supplies, likely left by or for migrants. As they're leaving the stash behind, militia member "Iceman" stabs the water bottles and stamps the food into the dirt. "I almost ask him to stop—this water could be someone's lifeline—but it does not seem wise," writes Bauer. Click for the full story, in which racist jokes and war stories are common—but the only bullet that flies is one chucked into a campfire. Also appearing are cooperative border agents eager to help militia members. (Read more Longform stories.)