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United Constitutional Patriots

The United Constitutional Patriots, a border militia founded by felon Larry Hopkins, stationed itself on the U.S.-Mexico border to detain migrants crossing into the United States. The group uses conspiracy theories and President Donald Trump’s assertions that immigrants are invading the United States to justify their actions, some of which are illegal, such as detaining migrants at gunpoint.

In its own words

“If these people make it to here, it’s going to be a war in our own country and it’s coming. We’re going to have a war on the border.”
– Larry Hopkins (Johnny Horton Jr.), “United Constitutional Patriots Radio Live Stream,” YouTube, April 1, 2019

“These people (migrants) obviously are being paid to come here and crash the system. Why? Because that’s the only way the deep state can still win.”
– Chuck Davis, UCP member, “United Constitutional Patriots Radio Live Stream,” YouTube, March 29, 2019

“They don’t care about the American people. They’re here because they want to kill American people. … They don’t want free America again.”
– Larry Hopkins (Johnny Horton Jr.), “United Constitutional Patriots Radio Live Stream,” YouTube, April 3, 2019

“I promise Americans this. … If we don’t build a wall, if we don’t get new immigration laws soon and start enforcing the laws, we’re going to have a serious problem in this country because it’s going to get ran over. It’s like asking China, if all of China wanted to move here today, how many Americans liberal or Republican would say, ‘Oh yeah, bring them over.’ We’re being invaded.”
– UCP spokesman Jim Benvie, interviewed on “The Border Crisis in El Paso and a Patriot Group Trying to Help,” Opslens.com, March 29, 2019

“These kids coming across are abused. What they’re doing now in Mexico, the cartel is buying the kids from the families, virtually raping them, from nine years old up, to impregnate them, and they’re beating them so they can come into our country and claim that they need asylum. This is now what they are doing, this is fact, it’s not BS.”
– Larry Hopkins (Johnny Horton Jr.), “United Constitutional Patriots Radio Live Stream,” YouTube, April 1, 2019

Background

The United Constitutional Patriots (UCP) became a known entity in the Patriot movement in October 2018 when they joined forces with two other groups: Patriots of the Constitution (POC) and Mountain Minutemen. The groups collaborated to secure the border in response to the migrant caravan traveling from Honduras to the United States.  

On Oct. 19, 2018, UCP, along with Patriots of the Constitution, issued a press release claiming:

The Invaders are now being trucked to the border. Several thousand expected. We do understand that Trump is deploying troops but in the meantime it is imperative that we have boots on the ground. We are working with the border patrol and their orders are above in the update from Robert Crooks [leader of the Mountain Minutemen]. Not only are the Invaders being trucked, they coming by boat to San Diego and they are also coming from Africa then up through South America to our border.

The press release went to anti-immigrant and antigovernment individuals, some who planned to join the groups at the border or send donations. UCP operated under the leadership of Larry Mitchell Hopkins and worked out of his trailer in Flora Vista, New Mexico. Hopkins, who was born in 1949 and uses the alias Johnny Horton Jr., describes himself as an entertainer with a long-standing relationship with President Trump. Earlier this year Hatewatch reported on Hopkins’ criminal history, which includes possession of a firearm by a felon and impersonation of a peace officer. Hopkins was most recently arrested on April 20, 2019, for possession of a firearm by a person previously convicted of a crime. The criminal complaint also alleged that Hopkins previously claimed the United Constitutional Patriots were training to assassinate George Soros, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama because of their support for Antifa, a term used to refer to far-left protesters.

Hopkins and other UCP members began camping on the southern border in New Mexico to detain migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. UCP functions as a paramilitary organization – with a clear chain of command structure and donning combat fatigues, wearing badges, carrying firearms – that identifies itself as border patrol and summoning legitimate border patrol agents to apprehend migrants. The group has livestreamed encounters with migrants on social media and claims to have detained as many as three hundred migrants in one evening.

By April 2019 UCP broke off its partnership with POC and Mountain Minutemen and began acting independently. Infighting between the groups included a dispute over the allocation of funds from their joint fundraising campaign. UCP had approximately twenty members by the end of that same month, some of whom were stationed on land owned by Union Pacific Railroad in Sunland Park, New Mexico. Union Pacific evicted UCP of its land after Hopkins April 20, 2019, arrest. Between October 2018 and April 2019, the group managed to raise an estimated $5,000 in donations, according to ThinkProgress, a news site that offers what it describes as a progressive perspective. In that ThinkProgress report, UCP said it used donations to finance its border operations such as buying gas, "food, tents, sleeping bags, etc."

The group has characterized their relationship with border patrol several ways. In the October 2018 press release, UCP claimed to be working with border patrol. In an interview that aired March 25, 2019, on the website of ABC-7 affiliate KVIA in New Mexico, a masked UCP member calling himself “Viper” said, “Border Patrol asked us to come here.” In the same video, a border patrol agent asked to respond to that comment told ABC that he did not know if the statement was accurate, but he did not believe it to be accurate at that time, saying that the militia’s help was “unsolicited.”

The relationships between border patrol and border militias are often muddy. Many photographs and videos show border patrol agents taking migrants into custody who were originally spotted or detained by armed militia members. The militias often claim that border patrol desires their help and has requested it, while border patrol is more diffident in their responses, refusing to confirm the militias account without condemning them. This is the situation between UCP and border patrol in New Mexico and Texas where they have been active.

UCP members include wild west re-enactors, a DJ, former chain store staff, an independent minister and others. Members don badges that have no relation to their occupations, and they publicly communicate through Discord, a messaging platform that has become popular among “alt-right” and white nationalist groups.

On Discord, UCP members adopt usernames such as “Country Rebel,” “Preacher,” “Shewolf” and “Reaper” to discuss logistics. The group also discusses fundraising strategies, but many of the conversations include anti-immigrant and antigovernment conspiracy theories.

A Hatewatch investigation of the group’s Discord chats and YouTube videos found group members regularly trafficked in conspiracy theories and anti-immigrant rhetoric. On Discord, Hopkins has claimed that the influx of immigrants is an invasion that will cause war on our borders. The group member using code name Viper on Discord alleged on March 29, 2019, that a migrant caravan was planning to start fires to shoot first responders. He claims he witnessed the first fire, and he wasn’t going to back down. The member known as “Preacher” said in the same chat that migrants which he referred to as “these people” are “obviously are being paid to come here and crash the system. Why? Because that’s the only way the deep state can still win.” And referring to migrants on a UCP YouTube livestream on April 5, 2019, UCP member Debbie Collins Farnsworth told the audience that “these people” coming in are turning our neighborhoods into cesspools.

The group’s mission is in part fueled by fear and uncertainty, critical factors in the radicalization process for extremists. Members look for guidance from “Q”, the protagonist in a conspiracy theory who claims he is a government operative working to bring down the deep state. Q asserts that his garbled messages are essential to understanding current events. Members are also fans of Alex Backman of Conciencia Radio. Backman has claimed that George Soros was behind the influx of migrants.

UCP has received the support of other anti-immigrant and Patriot movement figures. Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes visited their base camp on March 20, 2019, with former Texas real estate agent Pedro Aguero, a MAGA livestreamer who goes by the persona “Conservative Anthony.” Aguero has acted as the spokesman for UCP on Univision and been a strong champion for the group. In turn, at least one member of the group showed up at Anthony’s Feb. 9, 2019, “human wall” event in El Paso, Texas, where attendees were invited to bring MAGA gear, wear a white shirt and make a human chain near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Other groups have praised UCP on social media. This includes Patriot Movement AZ (a hate group that has organized activities against immigrants and other minorities in Arizona) and the Texas Minutemen, a border militia run by Shannon McGauley, who has close ties to Minuteman Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, another MAGA livestreamer who organized events with Three Percent Security Force leader Chris Hill in 2019.  

Despite support from a portion of the Patriot movement, UCP faces an uncertain future. UCP’s leader, Hopkins, faces criminal charges relating to his firearms possession. PayPal, GoFundMe and Cash App have suspended UCP accounts.