FBI Makes Arrest After Right-Wing Group Films Itself Kidnapping Asylum Seekers
Last fall President Donald Trump and his supporters were in hysterics regarding the so-called “migrant caravan” that was headed toward the U.S. — Mexico border. Even though this was a gross misrepresentation of what was actually happening, Trump successfully whipped many into a frenzy over what he characterized as an “invasion” — to the point that self-styled right-wing militias took it upon themselves to head to the border to play vigilante.
At the time, many expressed concern over what this would lead to — would armed members of these militias find themselves in confrontation with local landowners, law enforcement or even the military? Would these people violate migrants’ civil rights or even end up killing some of them?
Turns out, these concerns were warranted. This month, videos began circulating online apparently depicting one of these militia groups, called the United Constitutional Patriots, accosting a group of migrants while identifying themselves as border control. Hundreds of people were held at gunpoint while members of the militia waited for border agents to arrive.
According to the American Civil Liberty Union, or ACLU, during this encounter, nearly 300 people were kidnapped by members of the United Constitutional Patriots during the Facebook live stream made near Sunland Park, New Mexico. In it, a number of people can be seen being held at gunpoint, including many children.
According to the members of the United Constitutional Patriots, since they first began to mobilize in New Mexico in November, roughly 3,000 people have been detained. It also appears that U.S. Border and Customs Protection (BCP) has, at least in some cases, been coordinating with the militia, raising serious concerns from the ACLU and others.
Previously, the ACLU has characterized the United Constitutional Patriots as an “armed fascist organization” that routinely makes illegal arrests.
In response to these and other reported armed kidnappings, the FBI issued a warrant for the arrest of the group’s leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, and took him into custody this past Saturday. Though Hopkins has yet to be charged for kidnapping or intimidation, New Mexico’s attorney general, Hector Balderas, says he is facing felony firearm possession charges, stating that Hopkins “is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families.”
The FBI is expected to investigate Hopkins and the United Constitutional Patriots further and may bring additional charges.
In the wake of backlash over the militia’s kidnappings, both GoFundMe and PayPal banned online donations made to the group and its members. Speaking to Buzzfeed, a senior member of the right-wing militia says this has “killed us” and will require them to seek alternative means of raising funds.
Though BCP says vigilante groups should refrain from interfering with law enforcement and border patrol, they say they welcome citizens reporting illegal activity. This, however, is a rather impotent condemnation of groups like the United Constitutional Patriots — dangerous, armed militants playing army at the expense of hundreds of people’s human rights.
How long before a member of one of these militia groups kills a migrant? Will this administration and BCP continue to encourage this kind of reckless behavior until the worst has happened?
This article was originally published on Care2.com on April 29, 2019.