Leader of US border vigilante group arrested by FBI

David Millward
Larry Mitchell Hopkins leader of United Constitutional Patriots - AFP

The leader of a right-wing militia group which has been detaining migrant families at gunpoint on the US-Mexico border has been arrested by the FBI.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who runs the United Constitutional Patriots, was detained by the FBI on Saturday night, charged with being in possession of firearms despite being a convicted felon.

The move comes amid mounting concern over the activities of the vigilante group in recent months as the migration crisis on the US border intensifies.

Hopkins, who operates under the alias Johnny Horton Jr, said his group had been working with the US border patrol in rounding up immigrants as they cross the border into New Mexico.

However, this was disputed by both the US Border Patrol and State Attorney General Hector Balderas.

"This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families," he said.

"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."

On its Facebook page, the group denies acting illegally. "We are here to uphold the Constitution of The United States of America. We uphold this cause against all enemies both foreign and domestic which shall infringe upon the rights of the citizens given by the Constitution."

It says it will continue its patrols until the border wall promised by Donald Trump is built and Congress toughens US asylum laws.

A Facebook posting urges supporters: "If you want to protect our country, get your butts down here."

In an online video,  an unnamed member voices regret that they can't use their firearms. "The only problem is if we shoot on the hill, it would be an international crisis. We are too close to the border. But it would save some time, wouldn't it."

The group had been raising money via PayPal and GoFund Me, but both companies have suspended its account.