Have Gun, Will Travel Isn’t A Good Idea For Helping at the Texas Mexican Border

razor wire border fence
Courtesy Texas Military Department


A recent headline at Newsweek says, “Texas Defies Joe Biden By Recruiting Volunteers To Bolster Border Fight“. From that, you’d believe that Texas needs help, and maybe it would even be a good idea to load up the truck and head to Eagle Pass.

I don’t know if anyone is actually doing that, but mall ninjas on social media are talking about heading down to “join the fight.” There are also plans for a convoy (but I doubt Rubber Duck will be making an appearance, so we’ll probably have to settle for this version).

But there’s just one problem with all this: Texas (or, the feds if that’s your thing) hasn’t actually asked anyone to come and help. I’m going to explore a common problem faced by people responding to big emergencies, explain why you probably shouldn’t drive down there, and what you can do to actually be helpful now and in the future.

The Problem With Self-Deployment or Spontaneous Volunteers

One great thing about Americans is that we like to help. So, when we see something bad on the news, we often want to do what we can to make it better. We don’t always do the right thing, though. For example, when there’s a big flood or fire, people organize canned food drives, collect old blankets, and then send it all into the disaster zone. But, the cans of food and blankets end up not being needed, while other needs don’t get met.

This old George W. Bush quote that has turned into a meme really rings true:

But, some people literally go the extra mile and want to go volunteer to help personally. So, they gas up the car or pickup truck, strap on a piece, load up those canned food and blankets, and then drive (sometimes thousands of miles) to go help.

But, when they get there, they sometimes present a problem for the disaster response already on the ground. Untrained people who show up need to be integrated into the relief process. Not only do many of then not have the vital skills, but they often don’t have tools, personal protective equipment, a place to sleep, or food.

So, they can end up being more of a drain on resources that need to be going to the victims of the disaster or the people who have been training for months or years to be there and help.

The Headlines Are Deceptive

For this situation in Texas, the headlines are misleading. While it may look like Texas wants to pay $55/day for volunteers to put up razor wire on the Rio Grande, the truth buried further down in the clickbait media stories is that Texas really only wants people who are already in the State Guard or the National Guard to go. If you’re a random person wanting to help out, Texas isn’t offering that cash nor are they asking for their help.

So, no beaver patch for us. Sorry!


Also, unless you go down to Eagle Pass with an RV that’s well-stocked with groceries, you might not actually have a place to stay or food to eat (and, no, you can’t just set up a tent in most parts of Texas). With all of the extra people down there, it’s very likely that hotels are full and restaurants are already struggling. But if you have your passport and don’t take any guns or ammo, you might have better luck across the river in Piedras Negras!

Even if you have that RV, Texas DPS still won’t let you in the gate and will probably run you off if you go snooping around near the river.

What You Can Do To Actually Help

If you really want to help Governor Greg Abbott and Texas with Operation Lone Star, the best thing you can do is what Dubya said: send cash. The website that’s been set up for the operation has three different funds you can donate to: money to bus migrants, money to build barriers, and money for security. With that money, they can use their existing pool of trained and vetted personnel to handle the situation.

Another way to help would be to become a legitimate volunteer. If you live in Texas, the National Guard and the State Guard together take people of many different ages and backgrounds. If you’re worried about ending up on the wrong side if the National Guard gets federalized, join the State Guard (Biden can’t federalize them). You can also apply for a job at Texas DPS. Similar opportunities exist in Arizona.

Finally, you might consider volunteering closer to home. While big, flashy events get a lot of volunteer interest, small emergencies happen every day in the United States. Local programs of all kinds exist and help you gain experience for those bigger ones later.

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