The FBI announced on Saturday that they have arrested a New Mexico man who is affiliated with a civilian group of volunteer border patrollers who have been detaining undocumented migrants crossing into the United States across the southern border, USA Today reports. The man is Larry Hopkins, 69, and he was arrested by the FBI with assistance from the Sunland Park police department based on a federal complaint of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.
Hopkins, who is also known as Johnny Horton Jr., was picked up at 11:55 a.m. on a federal warrant and was not allowed to post bond. He is expected to appear in the U.S. District Court in Las Cruces on Monday morning.
Hopkins was affiliated with the United Constitutional Patriots, a group which has made headlines previously for detaining suspected undocumented immigrants near the U.S.-Mexico border. The group has been identified as problematic by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and drawn criticism from New Mexico’s attorney general, Hector Balderas.
“This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” Balderas said in a statement following the arrest. “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.”
Although the FBI did not comment about Hopkins’s role or status within the group, Hopkins has, in the past, described himself as the group’s “national commander.” On the afternoon of the arrest, the United Constitutional Patriots took to their Facebook page, declaring an emergency and indicting that their commander had been arrested at their camp near the border. At the same time, the group took the opportunity to solicit donations.
"We came down here not as a militia, but as a group of Americans to help protect the border from the crisis going on down here," United Constitutional Patriots New Mexico Border Ops spokesman Jim Benvie said. https://t.co/0kljB78NFb— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) April 20, 2019
According to that Facebook page, the United Constitutional Patriots are a group for “Americans that believe in the constitution and the rights of every American that will stand up for there (sic) rights in unity and help keep America safe.”
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham took the arrest as an opportunity to oppose the vigilante work carried out by the group and others like it.
“We are actively working with @NewMexicoOAG as well as local and state police. Menacing or threatening migrant families and asylum-seekers is absolutely unacceptable and must cease,” she said in a tweet.
The ACLU likewise weighed in, calling out the Trump Administration for emboldening white nationalists and stirring up contempt for migrant families seeking asylum in the United States.
Hopkins is scheduled to appear in court on Monday, at which more information is expected to be made public.