One Man’s Effort to Guard the US-Mexico Border

12 March, 2017

Fifteen years ago, Glenn Spencer left his home in California for a reason: "to help secure the border" between the United States and Mexico.

Spencer now lives on a ranch in Arizona, about 100 meters from the metal barrier that separates the two countries. His one-man effort against illegal immigration has put people crossing the Sonoran Desert at risk.

Spencer says he has reported or captured thousands of people over the past 15 years. He believes most of them were transporting illegal drugs. However, most experts say that drugs are rarely brought across the border that way.

Spencer uses drone aircraft launched from his farm in Cochise County. He developed the drone technology he uses.

"The computer is looking at five miles of information, and then when something happens the algorithm says ‘hey, there's people out there.'"

Spencer leads a group called the American Border Patrol. It is considered a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that reports on and fights discrimination.

Spencer says he has spent one million dollars of his own money to stop the illegal movement of people across the border. He believes it is the reason he was born.

"I just kept digging and digging and digging. The more I dug, the uglier it became..."

Spencer says he wants to show what he calls the truth about illegal immigration. He believes that Mexicans are plotting to take control of the southwestern United States by becoming a voting majority. He says that when immigrants vote in U.S. elections, they are voting in Mexico's best interests. He believes they want to cancel the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Under the treaty, Mexico gave the United States 1.3 million square kilometers of land.

Glenn Spencer hopes to help secure the southern border by using a drone to detect illegal immigrants crossing over from Mexico. (R. Taylor/VOA)
Glenn Spencer hopes to help secure the southern border by using a drone to detect illegal immigrants crossing over from Mexico. (R. Taylor/VOA)

Spencer is almost 80 years old. He says he is saddened by changes to the local population. He says they show that white people will no longer be in the majority.

"This is not natural. Most of this is because of illegal immigration and what they call anchor babies. And then family reunification. I think we have to put a stop to this because if you get a power bloc of Hispanics -- and they have said this themselves -- they are going to be a swing vote."

Juanita Molina is the head of a rights group called the Border Action Network. She says there are many people along the border who share Spencer's beliefs.

"You see this trend, and you can see this in this presidency, of a culture of scarcity, this feeling that the America that they once knew is slipping away and is being stolen..."

Mo Goldman is an immigration lawyer. He says many people in Arizona reject the actions and beliefs of people like Spencer. He believes Spencer, and those like him, are wasting their time.

"Their viewpoint is: ‘Hey, we're patriotic, we're going to seal up the border, we're going to catch these people and we're going to call the Border Patrol.' You know, if that's what they want to do, fine. (But) I think a lot of people in this community think that that is not the right thing to do and they reject that mentality."

Spencer says many opponents of illegal immigration have stopped giving money to his group because they believe President Donald Trump will close the border. But Spencer says even if others stop supporting him, he will keep watching the border.

He adds, "America can't start over again. That won't happen again. If we lose that, that's it. We have got to keep it. We've got to hold it. We've got to defend it. And that's what I do."

I'm Bryan Lynn.

VOA Correspondent Ramon Taylor reported this story from Cochise County, Arizona. John Smith adapted the story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

ranch n. large farm where animals are kept

algorithmn. set of steps that are followed in order to solve a mathematical problem or to complete a computer process

dig v. look for information about something

anchor babiesn. term, considered offensive to many, to describe children who gain citizenship when born in the United States to noncitizen parents

bloc n. group of people who share the same political ideas

swing vote n. vote that has a major influence on the result of an election

scarcityn. very small amount of something

viewpoint n. way of thinking about something

sealv. to close, cut off