The next time a MAGA cult member whines about criminals flocking to the southern U.S. border, point them to this story.
Just days after videos surfaced of a right-wing, conspiracy-theory-peddling militia called the United Constitutional Patriots detaining hundreds of migrants near the border, the FBI has arrested the group’s 69-year-old leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins.
As it turns out, Hopkins is a convicted felon. The Daily Beast previously reported that he has multiple convictions, including impersonating an officer and a felony firearm possession. The FBI arrested Hopkins on Saturday in New Mexico on charges of possessing firearms and ammunition as a convicted felon.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas called Hopkins a “dangerous felon,” adding that, “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 Guardian reported.
The group’s videos and armed activities prompted the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico to call for an investigation. A letter to Balderas and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham stated:
Two nights ago, on April 16, 2019, an armed fascist militia organization describing itself as the United Constitutional Patriots arrested nearly three hundred people seeking safety in the United States, including young children, near Sunland Park, New Mexico. Other videos appear to show arrests in the past few hours. The vigilante members of the organization, including Jim Benvie, who posted videos and photographs of the unlawful arrests to social media, are not police or law enforcement and they have no authority under New Mexico or federal law to detain or arrest migrants in the United States. Their actions undermine the legitimate efforts of our state’s law enforcement officials to keep New Mexico families safe and they erode community trust.
Hopkins is scheduled to appear in federal court in Las Cruces, NM, on Monday.
Members of the group—including Hopkins and Benvie—have claimed that they work with the U.S. Border Patrol, which the agency denies. On Thursday, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said the agency “does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands,” the newspaper noted. In one of the videos posted this week, Benvie filmed himself confronting a group of seven migrants, including children. “Border patrol,” he said before calling the actual Border Patrol.
In a 2016 investigation published by Mother Jones, reporter Shane Bauer went undercover with border-area militias and noted some of their close relationships with border patrol agents.
Benvie also told the Daily Beast, “There’s no question about whether or not we work with Border Patrol.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Hopkins, who also goes by the alias Johnny Horton Jr., runs his militia group out of Flora Vista, NM. He has claimed that President Donald Trump frequently relies on him for information and intelligence about the border situation. (Sure.)
Hopkins’ group also produces a radio show promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory and one that claims migrants are linked to ISIS, the Daily Beast reported.