Police: Militia holding hundreds of migrants at border will leave camp

Camp located near Sunland Park, New Mexico

By Chris Boyette and Darran Simon, CNN
Copyright 2019 CNN

A militia group in New Mexico faces charges over attempts to enforce border laws.

(CNN) - Members of a militia that has held hundreds of migrants at the US-Mexico border are expected to leave their camp near Sunland Park, New Mexico, by Wednesday, police said.

The United Constitutional Patriots group has been camped on the land, which is adjacent to property owned by Union Pacific Railroad, for about two months, according to Sunland Park Police Chief Javier Guerra.

On Monday, the city of Sunland Park placed "no trespassing" signs near the camp. Union Pacific Railroad has also put up "no trespassing" signs, and asked the militia members not to trespass on railroad property to access the camp.

Members of the militia are "getting their stuff ready to head out," Guerra said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

He said some members plan to spend the night because of problems with vehicles. The camp "should be clear tomorrow," Guerra said.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins, the militia's leader, was charged Monday with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition in a case that stems from the 2017 search of his Flora Vista home, according to a criminal complaint. He remains in custody.

Hopkins was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because he had been convicted of at least three felonies, including criminal impersonation of a peace officer in Oregon in 2006, according to the criminal complaint.

"I think after the detention of Mr. Hopkins discouraged them," Guerra said. "That's what they said today. They're just going to pack up and go home."

Last week, videos posted online purported to show migrants being held by the militia before being turned over to the US Border Patrol. In the footage, people in full military fatigues had handguns strapped to their sides and wore gloves and black masks.

The footage drew condemnation from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. In a letter, the group likened the militia's actions to kidnapping.

When the militia arrived at the camp, Guerra said he told the members he didn't want them to stop people illegally and point their guns at anyone.

"When I saw that video, I decided I had to go back up there and talk to them because I saw that they had started using those tactics I told them not to use," he said, referring to the recent footage posted online.

According to Guerra, members are frustrated with the way they say they are being portrayed in the media, and fed up with the attention.

"There was already some dissension among them," Guerra said, "My understanding is they're all going home."

CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian and Catherine Shoichet contributed to this report.

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