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