On Saturday, the FBI arrested the leader of the United Constitutional Patriots, an armed militia that illegally hunts and detains hundreds of undocumented migrants seeking asylum at the border. Larry Mitchel Hopkins, the leader of the militia, was arrested in New Mexico on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.
New Mexico’s Attorney General Hector Balderas released a statement following the arrest that Hopkins is “a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families. Today’s arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”
The group has recently started filming and posting videos of migrants that the group illegally detained. In one video posted on April 16th, a woman filmed a group of illegally detained migrants that included several children and the video depicts people huddled together on the ground. Border Patrol then appears in the video and orders the migrants to walk.
The ACLU encouraged New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Attorney General Balderas to investigate the militia after the videos surfaced online. In a letter to the governor and attorney general, the ACLU wrote that “we cannot allow racist and armed vigilantes to kidnap and detain people seeking asylum. We urge you to immediately investigate this atrocious and unlawful conduct.” “Law enforcement belongs strictly in the hands of trained professionals,” Peter Simonson, director of the ACLU in New Mexico argued.
While the militia argues that their actions are legal, the Sunland Police Chief Javier Guerra said that he explicitly told the militia that they are not legally allowed to detain migrants. Local and state officials have issued warnings to militia members after online videos suggested members “were stopping immigrants at gunpoint, wearing badges, and falsely identifying themselves as law enforcement.”
Militia members have been camped at the border since November in an attempt to stop migrants from crossing the border. The militia claims that since November, they have detained more than 3,000 migrants.
Media Resources: Washington Post 4/22/19; Buzzfeed News 4/20/19