An Arizona Border Town's Decade-Long Fight Against Militias


Arivaca, AZ, about 10 miles from the Mexican border, is a magnet for colorful characters, from ranchers and barflies to humanitarians and hippies.

But each year, Arivaca also attracts hundreds of armed anti-immigration extremists, who travel from across the U.S. to police undocumented immigrants and, they say, Mexican cartel activity on the border.

They call themselves militias, but others call them vigilantes, or even murderers.

On May 30, 2009, members of the now-defunct Minutemen American Defense stormed the house of a Mexican-American family whom they claimed to suspect of drug trafficking. The invasion ended in a double murder. The crimes shocked Arivaca, attracted national attention, and contributed to a nationwide decline of border vigilantism.

But in 2019, border militias are quietly undergoing a revival. Emboldened by President Donald Trump, fueled by radical right-wing conspiracies, and connected by social media, people from across the country continue to travel to Arivaca.

But this time, the community has taken a stand, led by Clara Godfrey, a 58-year-0ld resident with a very personal stake in making sure the militias are pushed out of Arivaca forever.

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