Armed militia group that detained migrants kicked out of their New Mexico camp

Daniel Borunda
Armed militia group that detained migrants kicked out of their New Mexico camp

EL PASO, Texas - Members of the United Constitutional Patriots, who set up a border camp to monitor immigrants in Sunland Park, New Mexico, were told to move their campsite by Friday.

The Sunland Park Police Department and representatives of the railroad that owns the land told the militia members on Monday that they would have to move.

The city of Sunland Park on Monday also set up "No Trespassing" signs in the area. The land is owned by Union Pacific.

"Members of the United Constitutional Patriots were not given permission to camp on or access Union Pacific property," Union Pacific said in a statement.

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The United Constitutional Patriots-New Mexico Border Ops group were visited by law enforcement Monday as they erected 'No Trespassing' signs denoting the city of Sunland Park's boundary near their camp. Union Pacific Police said they are camped on railroad land and will need to vacate by Friday.

Union Pacific stated that the group set up a camp adjacent to Union Pacific property and trespassed on railroad property to access this camp.

Union Pacific has its own police force that enforces trespassing laws.

The group's removal follows Saturday's arrest of the militia group's alleged commander.

FBI agents arrested 69-year-old Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who is known as Johnny Horton Jr., on a federal weapons charge. Hopkins appeared in a Las Cruces court on Monday.

The United Constitutional Patriots-New Mexico Border Ops group were visited by law enforcement Monday as they erected 'No Trespassing' signs denoting the city of Sunland Park's boundary near their camp. Union Pacific Police said they are camped on railroad land and will need to vacate by Friday.

On April 16, members of the militia group, who have conducted patrols of the U.S.-Mexico border in Sunland Park, detained more than 300 migrants who crossed the border illegally. The group posted a video of the detention, which drew the ire of the ACLU of New Mexico.

For months, large numbers of migrants seeking asylum have been crossing the border and surrendering to Border Patrol agents in the El Paso region.

Sunland Park is along the border, next to El Paso. The area is a busy crossing point because border fencing ends at the foot of Mount Cristo Rey.

The armed militia group wearing masks and military-style uniforms had been in the area for about two months, Sunland Park Police Chief Javier Guerra said.

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"We have not had any complaints, whatsoever," Guerra said, until the video was publicized last week.

"To this day I had not received any communication from anybody or complaints that our citizens felt threatened," Guerra said.

The United Constitutional Patriots has its "base" at Hopkins' home in a trailer park in the small community of Flora Vista near Farmington in northern New Mexico, according to federal documents.

Guerra said he had spoken to the group after their arrival and had warned them.

"About two months ago, I went out to talk to them and I told them what was expected of them," Guerra said. "I told them they couldn’t be pulling their weapons on defenseless individuals. No matter where they are from, these individuals are human beings. And they can’t be detaining anybody.”

On Saturday, Sunland Park police assisted FBI agents in the arrest of Hopkins on a federal warrant. 

"He came down on his own to the police station so that we could speak with him. The FBI was waiting for him at the office," Guerra said.

Hopkins was taken into custody without incident. He remains held at the Doña Ana County jail without bond.

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This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Armed militia group that detained migrants kicked out of their New Mexico camp