Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Christie D. Batson

Second Committee Member

Andrew L. Spivak

Third Committee Member

David R. Dickens

Fourth Committee Member

Robert Futrell

Fifth Committee Member

William Sousa

Number of Pages



This study examines the new nativism movement in the United States. Specifically I look at groups who have formed in Arizona to combat illegal crossings over the U.S.-Mexico border. The new nativism arises from the perceived inability of the government to secure the border from illegal crossing. I draw on community policing and vigilante literatures to determine whether these groups could be considered a neighborhood watch or vigilante group. Using a sequential mixed method design, I conduct semi-structured interviews and engage in participate observation in the Sonoran desert with the Arizona Border Defenders, to identify how these groups label their actions. In addition to the qualitative methods, I employ a survey to group members to gauge the commonality between their views and the general public. Having gained a limited sample, I use t-tests to determine a significant difference between their means and use descriptive statistics to bolster the explanations provided from the interviews and participant observations. These groups respond to the threat of undocumented immigrants and their potential harm to the U.S. society. Their response is neither wholly vigilante nor neighborhood watch. I discover two main types of members, the wholly vigilante and the hybrid identity. I provide a critical assessment of the views group members hold to determine three main categories; mistaken beliefs, exaggerated truths, and genuine concerns. I propose we look at these groups as important contributors to border security and to look past previous vigilante labels to expand our knowledge about these groups.


Arizona; Border security; Illegal aliens; Immigration; Mixed method; Nativism; Neighborhood watch programs; North America – Mexican-American Border Region; Vigilance committees; Vigilantism


Criminology | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Sociology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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