As President Donald Trump directs thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in a show of military force against an approaching caravan of migrants from Central America, preliminary intelligence assessments are preparing for encounters with a litany of groups from unregulated militias to transcontinental criminal organizations, according to documents obtained by Newsweek.
In a powerpoint presentation from Saturday, the Joint Force Land Component Commander Threat Working Group prepared an intelligence assessment for Pentagon officials as they begin to carry out Operation Faithful Patriot, the interagency operation with the Department of Defense and led by the Department of Homeland Security, that started Tuesday.
The presentation is marked as "UNCLASSIFIED//FOUO//LES," meaning, the documents are for official use only and are law enforcement sensitive. Newsweek obtained the operational planning documents earlier this week from two different Defense Department sources that have direct knowledge of U.S. Northern Command's mission on the southern U.S. border.
The documents take a detailed look at the four-point of entry locations spread across the southwest border and assesses where the caravan might travel. Two areas of concern to U.S. intelligence officials involving points of entry and transcontinental criminal organizations is the point of entry in Brownsville, Texas, where the Rio Grande River is located between Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, and the San Ysidro point of entry, separating San Diego, California from Tijuana, Mexico.
The assessment underscored news reports that combatant commanders might encounter unregulated militia members along the southern border in alleged support of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.
"Estimated 200 unregulated armed militia members currently operating along the southwest border. Reported incidents of unregulated militias stealing National Guard equipment during deployments. They operate under the guise of citizen patrols supporting CBP [Customs and Border Protection] primarily between POEs [Points of Entry]," according to the documents.
The documents go onto highlight historical protests that support immigrants crossing the U.S. border. Those protests in some cases have shut down points of entry controlled by Customs and Border Protection, but the assessment concludes that protests are "normally peaceful unless extreme right or left groups attend."
<noscript>SWB Operations TWG 27OCT18 (PDF)
SWB Operations TWG 27OCT18 (Text)Militia groups and far-right activists have already announced plans to make their way to the U.S.-Mexico border with the aim of preventing caravan members from entering the country.
With the caravan still hundreds of miles away, it is unclear how many militia members will turn up. Among groups determined to help fortify the border, are members of the Minuteman Project.
Historically, Minutemen were once known as civilian colonists who organized to form self-trained militia groups during the American Revolution. Today, however, the Minuteman Project is an activist organization, which was founded in August 2004 by Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox and describes itself as a "citizen's Neighborhood Watch on the southern border."
Minutemen Project National Political Director Howie Morgan told Newsweek on Wednesday that the organization hoped to have its members out in full force at the border before the coming caravans arrive.
"We believe our nation is under attack by foreigners who refuse to accept the rule of law on how to become a citizen in the United States," Morgan said.
Asked whether he believes that applies to migrants who arrive at official ports of entry at the border to make asylum claims through the U.S.'s long-standing legal process, Morgan said he believed Central Americans should make those claims "in their own country."
"Instead of following the rules, they are using our nation's laws as a shortcut to get in front of the line," Morgan claimed.
To obtain asylum through the U.S.'s affirmative asylum process, however, asylum seekers must be "physically present in the United States," according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Agency. Asylum seekers also are eligible to apply for asylum regardless of how they arrived in the country or what their current immigration status is.
On Monday, the Minuteman Project issued a call to action, asking "Minutemen and Minutewomen" to "converge on the U.S.-Mexico border immediately to support U.S. law enforcement and military organizations already there."
"Your presence is needed along the 2,000-mile border from San Diego, California to Brownsville, Texas at any time for the next 90 days," the organization said in a statement issued on its website.
Morgan said he was not sure how many Minuteman members would arrive at the border in the weeks ahead. However, he said he hoped to see people come out in "thousands," but said that may be unlikely given that the government has already made strong efforts to fortify the southern border.
Of those who do arrive, Morgan said that members have been warned to follow the rule of law and focus their efforts on reporting migrants to Border Patrol authorities. However, he did say that he expected members would be armed.
"We understand how dangerous the border can be and we certainly want to ensure that all of our volunteers are safe," he said. "If they are entitled and in an area where it is legal to carry guns, it is their right to do so," he said.
On Wednesday, Trump announced that his administration could send as many as 15,000 troops to the southern border in anticipation of the thousands of migrants currently making their way to the U.S. with several caravans departing from Honduras and El Salvador.
Applauding the Trump administration's controversial crackdown on immigration, the Minuteman Project spokesperson said that while the organization is "always looking to have a better security and immigration program in the United States," Trump has "shown he is fighting to keep those efforts moving in the right direction."
In its call to action for supporters to make their way to the southern border, the Minuteman Project tells members: "Remember, defending your nation's sovereignty and its heralded stature as 'a nation of laws' does not make you a racist, a bigot, a xenophobe, a Nazi, a fascist… or any of the various epithets commonly used by our adversaries to falsely deface our patriotic virtue.
"The real fascists and xenophobes are those who openly hate us because we love our country just as we love our families and our communities," the message continued.
It also warns members not to speak with news outlets, reminding them that "most newspaper reporters" will be "hostile to your presence on the border," aside from Fox News, and One America News.