TEXAS: In trucks, vans and RVs, hundreds of people converged in southern Texas to rally against what they say is a migrant "invasion" and to demand tough new controls at the US border with Mexico.
Scrawled on the side of one of the vehicles reaching Quemado -- population 162 -- were the words "Join the God Fight."
The convoy gathered in the tiny town along the Rio Grande river, which forms the natural border between the United States and Mexico, as debate swirls again about how to address record high migrant crossings.
Hundreds of thousands of people from Central and South America, and beyond, have waded across the river in recent months in hopes of better lives in the United States.
But their huge numbers have become a galvanizing issue, especially ahead of the November presidential election, with Republicans in Congress blocking additional US aid to Ukraine and Israel over demands that President Joe Biden's administration does more to stop the flow.
In Quemado this weekend, conservative activists, including a group calling itself "We the People" -- the first words in the preamble to the US Constitution -- met to make their anger over immigration known, rallying under the slogan "Take our border back."
One of the event's organizers has called those massing here "God's Army," suggesting holy backing for their cause.
"Migration on the border is out of control," said 43-year-old Robyn Forzano, who was guarding the entrance to the Quemado ranch where protesters were meeting.
"We're being invaded and, you know, ultimately we have to be able to control what's happening," he said, echoing Republican leaders and conservative media pundits in recent weeks.
Many arriving vehicles bore signs supporting former president Donald Trump, the Republican favorite in this fall's election, or blasting his likely opponent, incumbent Biden.
Biden campaigned in 2020 on restoring "humanity" to immigration -- ending controversial Trump-era policies that led to families being separated at the US-Mexico border.
But Republicans dismiss his term as a failure, pointing to data showing "migrant encounters" reaching a record high of 302,000 in December.
"We love legal immigrants in this country because they work hard to be here," said 39-year-old Adam Chavin, who works for an IT company and wore a T-shirt with Trump's image. — AFP