FILE PHOTO: U.S. soldiers walk next to the border fence between Mexico and the United States, as migrants are seen walking behind the fence, after crossing illegally into the U.S. to turn themselves in, in El Paso, Texas, U.S., in this picture taken from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, April 3, 2019. The writing on the wall reads, “Help us Jesus Christ.” REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez/File Photo
TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – The leader of an armed group that is stopping undocumented migrants who cross into the United States from Mexico had boasted about training to assassinate former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, an FBI agent said in court papers on Monday.
Larry Hopkins, leader of the United Constitutional Patriots group, whose camouflage-wearing armed members claim to have helped U.S. officials detain some 5,600 migrants in New Mexico’s desert in the last 60 days was arrested Friday on a weapons charge.
The FBI in court papers filed on Monday said that while investigating Hopkins’ group in 2017 witnesses had accused Hopkins of saying the UCP was planning to assassinate Obama, former Democratic presidential candidate Clinton and financier George Soros.
The UCP group claims to have the support of U.S. Border Patrol at a time when the agency is overwhelmed by record numbers of asylum-seeking Central American families.
Dressed in clothing that resembles military fatigues and carrying weapons, its members appear in videos disseminated by the group telling groups of migrants, which include women and children and in some cases number in the hundreds, to stop and wait for immigration agents.
Critics including the American Civil Liberties Union accuse the UCP of being vigilantes who illegally detain and kidnap migrants by impersonating law enforcement.
Hopkins was arrested one day after New Mexico’s Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered an investigation of the group, saying in a tweet that “menacing or threatening migrant families and asylum-seekers is absolutely unacceptable and must cease.”
Crowdfunding sites PayPal and GoFundMe last week barred the group, citing policies not to promote hate or violence, after the ACLU called the UCP a “fascist militia.”
Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico, Editing by Scott Malone and Tom Brown