Larry Mitchell Hopkins, the 69-year-old leader of the United Constitutional Patriots, an armed border militia group spreading conspiracies and rounding up asylum-seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border, has been taken into custody by the FBI.
The New Mexico Resident allegedly illegal detained immigrants crossing the border while posing as United States Border Patrol.
The organization has been characterized by the ACLU as a “fascist militia organization” comprised of “armed vigilantes.”
Recent video footage making its rounds on social media show two UCP members holding guns near a group of immigrants, many appearing to be children.
According to the Daily Beast, the group’s radio show allows members to spread QAnon updates and spread theories that allege migrants of associating with ISIS. Hopkins claims Donald Trump personally asked him about “muslim immigration.”
UCP and Hopkins claim to work alongside Border Patrol, though the agency has denied working with UCP. Videos taken by group members, which can be found on tube sites sprinkled around the internet, feature Border Patrol agents in the periphery, often disconnected from group activity.
A Border Patrol official told The Daily Beast that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands.”
While given orders not to interact with vigilante groups along the border, Border Patrol agents have been caught doing so in the past. In 2016, a Mother Jones reporter went undercover with a border militia and described a close relationship between the agency and armed civilians.
From Mother Jones:
The other day, a Border Patrol agent showed up with two boxes of doughnuts. I asked him whether they ever get any pressure from their superiors in Washington, DC, about us being around. “Not that I ever heard of,” he said. “When you guys come through, they warn us like, ‘Heads up, those guys are out there.’ Good!”
I later asked the agency to comment on these interactions between its officers and militiamen. A spokesman only replied that the agency “appreciates the efforts of concerned citizens as they act as our eyes and ears” but “does not endorse or support any private group or organization taking matters into their own hands.” Fifty Cal told me he’s still in touch with his Border Patrol contacts “pretty much weekly.” The agents “give us very useful information to help make our ops better,” including recommendations for times and areas to patrol.
Jim, a UCP spokesman, said there was “ no question about whether or not we work with Border Patrol. That’s all documented, and not just once. It’s documented hundreds and hundreds of times over in the videos that I post.”
Hopkins, also known as Johnny Horton Jr., was charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, though the underlying condition remains unclear, according to NBC News. Hopkins will have his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Las Cruces, N.M. on Monday. Friday, the UCP Facebook account announced their PayPal account had been suspended.