The leader of a militia group who has been detaining migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border allegedly told the FBI that his militia was training to assassinate Hillary Clinton, former President Obama and Democratic donor George Soros., the head of the United Constitutional Patriots, is charged with possession of a firearm as a felon. If convicted for this, he could face up to 10 years in prison. He had appeared before a federal judge on Monday.
He has three felony convictions in Michigan and Oregon according to prosecutors, including one for impersonating a police officer. Nine guns were seized from his home in 2017.
Videos released from the group show militia members stopping migrants, many times at gunpoint, near the border in New Mexico. The United Constitutional Patriots said that they are simply doing their part to enforce U.S. immigration laws. They claim that they have captured about 5,600 migrants, in the last 60 days, who illegally entered the country.
But to human rights activists, they are a group of gun-toting vigilantes. The executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico, Peter Simonson, expressed his worries for migrants who are being subjected to violence and abuse which is not shown in the videos.
Simonson said. “It makes your heart sink to see human beings, and in particular children, exposed to this kind of a threat.”
Last week, New Mexico’s governor and attorney general denounced the militia while the Border Patrol warned them about interference by civilians in matters of law enforcement.
Simonson claims that militia members often carry badges and dress in camouflage. They break laws against kidnapping and impersonating federal agents. But so far only one has actually been arrested, the group’s 69 year old commander Larry Hopkins, who also uses the alias Johnny Horton Jr.
Kelly O’Connell, Hopkins’ attorney, said that his client is not guilty of the gun charge, and it is unrelated to the militia’s activities.
“When Hopkins got arrested, it made it seem like it was something which was going on down here, but according to the accusations, it happened up north”, he said.
Militia members dealt another blow on Monday when the owner of the land where they set up their camp kicked them out. Now, they have to leave the place by the end of the week.