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FBI arrests Tennessee man, saying he threatened to shoot migrants at U.S.-Mexico border

Razor wire is seen near the Rio Grande at Shelby Park on Saturday in Eagle Pass, Texas.  (Sergio Flores/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Aarón Torres Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN, Texas – The FBI arrested a Tennessee man last week who threatened to shoot migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, telling an undercover agent that “patriots are going to rise up” against a migrant invasion, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Paul Faye was charged with possession of an unregistered firearm or silencer, a felony. He had planned for 18 months to travel to the southern border to commit acts of violence against migrants and federal law enforcement officers, according to a motion for detention by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Middle District of Tennessee.

Faye’s arrest came as Texas and the federal government are clashing over state policies designed to deter illegal entry into the United States – including the placement of buoys in the Rio Grande and razor wire along the river’s banks. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also ordered the state takeover of Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, denying federal agents access to the area along the Rio Grande.

According to the federal complaint, Faye told an undercover FBI agent that he planned to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border around Jan. 20 with a group of militia members from Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

“Faye reported that one of his roles within the group traveling to the border was to serve as a sniper and that his talent was ‘sending rounds down range,’” the complaint said.

During multiple meetings with the FBI agent, Faye discussed plans to make homemade explosives to place along the border, the complaint said. On Jan. 11, Faye showed two undercover FBI agents his “war room,” which contained multiple AR-15 rifles, a shotgun, large quantities of ammunition and a bulletproof vest.

“We are being invaded,” Faye told an undercover FBI agent in a phone call on May 11, 2023, the complaint said.

Gov. Greg Abbott has declared Texas to be under an “invasion” of migrants, saying the U.S. Constitution allows states to defend themselves in such situations.

“Our declaration is a declaration of our rights under the United States Constitution … that guarantees the right of every state that’s either invaded or in imminent danger,” Abbott said in a news conference Sunday in Eagle Pass “We are in imminent danger.”

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, said on social media that there is a danger when officials such as Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick characterize migrants as invaders.

She pointed to the Aug. 3, 2019 shooting at an El Paso Walmart that left 23 people dead. The shooter was a self-described white supremacist who drove from Allen and said, in an online manifesto, that his attack was in response to “the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

“Long before the horror of August 3rd, I had already been sounding the alarms about the dangers of the xenophobic rhetoric spewed by @GregAbbott_TX, @DanPatrick, and other careless Republicans,” Escobar said. “These are the consequences.”

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.

Abbott was also criticized last month when he defended his border initiatives to a right-wing radio host and at one point said that the only thing the state isn’t doing is shooting migrants because “the Biden administration would charge us with murder.”

Abbott later said he was emphasizing the legality of operations by pointing out something that was “obviously illegal.”