Larry Hopkins, 69, the leader of the United Constitutional Patriots, a border patrol militia formed to detain migrants who crossed along the New Mexico border was arrested for possession of firearms and ammunition as a felon earlier this week. His organization had allegedly detained over 300 migrants, according to some estimates.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas referred to Hopkins as “a dangerous felon,” who has no business owning or handling a firearm, and “that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”
The existence of a private militia is not illegal as only about half of the states have laws regulating them, and most simply limit the ways in which they openly display membership. The only exception is Wyoming, which prohibits their formation.
United Constitutional Patriots Facebook page describes the organization as follows:
– United Constitutional Patriots Facebook Page
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. We are here to serve in time of need at the local and state level and if necessary for our country.
Despite their existence being lawful, many question whether their practices are legal. The ACLU has come out in condemnation of their actions, equating it to kidnapping.
The New Mexico Governor’s Office released a statement to CNN saying “they have absolutely not been authorized by our office or any other. We are actively working with the AG’s Office, state police and local police to determine what has gone on and what can and will be done. That migrant families might be menaced or threatened in any way, shape or form is completely unacceptable.” With their newly found fame, leaders and members of the UCP might end up with some sort of criminal charges if they continue to actively engage with migrants.
UCP had released a video where members had detained nearly 200 migrants in a single operation, a very large detainment, even for actual Border Patrol members.
Spokesman for UCP, Jim Benvie told reporters that the groups mission is to secure the border until President Trump fulfills his campaign promise to build the wall, or until Congress adequately funds measures to stall the large influx of illegal crossings. He also says while members are always armed, they do so for self defense and do not point weapons at migrants.
Customs and Border Protection has actively disavowed all civilian militia activity along the border. They told people on Twitter that taking the law into your own hands may result in “legal consequences” as well as the possibility of grave injury.
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