border crisis

FBI Arrests Far-Right Militia Leader Detaining Migrants at Gunpoint

Larry Mitchell Hopkins in March 2019. Photo: PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images

On Saturday, the FBI arrested 69-year-old Larry Mitchell Hopkins, the New Mexico conspiracist leading a militia illegally detaining migrants at the southern border. Hopkins heads United Constitutional Patriots, an armed vigilante group that allegedly detained — or kidnapped, according to the ACLU — around 200 asylum seekers who crossed into the U.S. near Sunland Park, New Mexico, earlier this week. Hopkins was arrested on charges of possessing firearms and ammo as a convicted felon. His past felony charges, according to the Daily Beast, include felony firearm possession and impersonating an officer.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas attest he and his militia may be doing it again: “These individuals should not attempt to exercise authority reserved for law enforcement,” Balderas said in a statement. Dressed in camo, bulletproof vests, and carrying assault rifles, the United Constitutional Patriots have posted videos that appear to show their members aiming guns in the direction of migrant families. In a phone interview with the New York Times, UCP spokesman Jim Benvie said their actions were equivalent to “a verbal citizen’s arrest.”

“There’s no question about whether or not we work with Border Patrol,” Jim, a UCP spokesman who declined to give his last name, told the Daily Beast. (It’s unclear if there are two Jim’s in the unit, or if Benvie forgot he gave his name to the Times.) Unsurprisingly, Border Patrol does not agree: “U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands,” an official told the Daily Beast.

Hopkins claims he once met President Trump in a random encounter in a Las Vegas casino and the two “have kept in touch ever since.” In an November 2018 interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Hopkins said that “very high level” law enforcement had “prewarned” him of armed groups already in the United States “planning on flanking us … to shoot us.” It’s one of several conspiracy theories that Hopkins and his group promote. The UCP has a radio show that discusses QAnon and has suggested that Ilhan Omar is trying to “impose Sharia law.”

In addition to losing their leader this week, United Constitutional Patriots were banned from PayPal and GoFundMe on Friday. It could be a major blow for the UCP, which has reportedly claimed nonprofit status on Facebook despite not registering for the tax status on a federal or state level.

On Monday, documents unsealed in federal court revealed that the FBI received reports in 2017 that Hopkins was “training” to assassinate Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and George Soros. Hopkins could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the new possession charge.

FBI Arrests Far-Right Militia Leader Detaining Migrants