Larry Mitchell Hopkins, a 69-year-old felon, appears in federal court today after he was arrested on Saturday for leading a group that has been kidnapping migrants at gunpoint on the southern border.
Hopkins was arrested in Sunland Park, N.M., on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, the FBI said. He was the leader of an armed group of American men that have been hunting migrants at the southern border, kidnapping them and holding them at gunpoint. The group is called the United Constitutional Patriots (UCP).
The UCP is one of several illegal armed groups that has taken to stalking the border for migrants after a recent uptick in Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries.
The group’s objective is to supposedly uphold the Constitution and protect citizens’ rights.
A video, taken on April 16 and posted to Facebook by a woman named Debbie Collins Farnsworth is what eventually brought attention to the UCP and their illegal activities.
The video shows a group of migrants, both adults, and children huddled on the ground at night. Farnsworth’s voice narrated the video while they waited for Border Patrol officers to arrive.
In the video, Farnsworth said there were “hundreds” of people thought it did not appear to actually be that many.
In the video, Farnsworth follows the Border Patrol officers as they lead the group of migrants walking. She claims that she doesn’t believe the adults are actually parents of the children.
“See the way they hold their kids? I don’t think those are their kids, honestly. They’ve got grips on their wrists. It’s crazy,” Farnsworth said.
The UCP claims that what it’s doing is legal, although their leader is a convicted felon possessing firearms and they are holding children at gunpoint.
Sunland Park Police Chief Javier Guerra told BuzzFeed News he had told the group that they are not legal, but Guerra had taken no further action to try and stop them.
Border Patrol has also tried to distance themselves from the UCP, saying in a statement they don’t support private armed groups. And yet, videos have shown Border Patrol officers taking away migrants kidnapped by so-called militia groups.
On Thursday, the New Mexico chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the state’s Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Democratic attorney general, Hector Balderas.
“We cannot allow racist and armed vigilantes to kidnap and detain people seeking asylum,” the letter said. “We urge you to immediately investigate this atrocious and unlawful conduct.”
“This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” Balderas said in a statement after Hopkins was arrested.
This is not the first time Hopkins has been arrested for violence. In 2006, Hopkins was arrested and charged with impersonating a police officer and possessing a gun even though he’s a felon, according to an incident report cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
But Hopkins did not serve any time, even though he was brandishing his gun in front of children at the California border, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.