The FBI arrested a 69-year-old New Mexico man who allegedly illegally detained immigrants crossing the border under the guise of working for the United States Border Patrol.
Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who runs The United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), an armed border militia group that spreads far-right conspiracies and rounds up asylum seekers on the border, was arrested by FBI in New Mexico Saturday on charges of possessing firearms and ammunition as a convicted felon.
Recent video footage released by UCP shows two members holding what appear to be semi-automatic rifles near immigrants, many of them children.
The group also peddles conspiracy theories and produces a radio show where members spread information about QAnon, and accuse migrants of associating with ISIS. Hopkins has also claimed that president Trump has personally asked him about ‘Muslim immigration.’
UCP and Hopkins claim to work with Border Patrol, which has publicly denied doing so. Border Patrol agents sometimes appear in the periphery of the groups videos, which show camo-clad UCP members interacting with migrants at the southern border.
“There’s no question about whether or not we work with Border Patrol,” said Jim, a UCP spokesperson who declined to give his last name. “That’s all documented, and not just once. It’s documented hundreds and hundreds of times over in the videos that I post.”
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands,” a Border Patrol official told The Daily Beast.
Border Patrol is not supposed to interact with border vigilantes, but has been documented doing so. A Mother Jones reporter who embedded with a border militia in 2016 witnessed the group getting information from Border Patrol agents.
UCP is only one of several vigilante groups patrolling the southern border with guns.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a statement on Saturday, praising the FBI over Hopkins' arrest.
“This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” Balderas wrote in a statement. “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.”
Hopkins, of Flora Vista, N.M., is expected to have an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Las Cruces, New Mexico on Monday. Federal authorities said they would not released additional details about Hopkins’ arrest until after the appearance.
The arrest was the latest fallout for the group. On Friday, the UCP Facebook group announced to its members that they no longer accept donations through PayPal, as the service has suspended their account.
“TO ALL PATRIOTS, I wish to thank all of you that has donated to the Border Ops mission up till now. We can no longer accept payments thru PAYPAL, they have permanently suspended our account,” the post read. “... And is hold $1300.00 in donations for 180 days. I am looking for another outfit that we can go thru.”
PayPal and GoFundMe announced Friday that they would no longer allow UCP to raise funds on their platforms.
A PayPal spokesperson told BuzzFeed News in a statement that UCP had been banned from their platform following a video that shows the group rounding up nearly 200 migrants.
“The account associated with United Constitutional Patriots has been closed due to a violation of our Acceptable Use Policy,” the spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “We do not allow PayPal services to be used to promote hate, violence, or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory.”