It's time for the U.S. government to crack down on American illegals. Not the undocumented migrants crossing the southern U.S. border but rather the American citizens who are taking up arms, forming militia patrols and holding migrants at gunpoint as self-appointed vigilante enforcers.
They are taking the law into their own hands and unlawfully using their weapons to terrorize others. By their own terminology, their actions make them no more law-abiding than the "illegals" they claim to be pursuing. The U.S. Border Patrol must state in the most emphatic terms that these vigilante groups need to disband and stand down.
The FBI arrested the leader of one militia, the United Constitutional Patriots, on Saturday after the group rounded up about 200 immigrants who had crossed into New Mexico near the border city of El Paso, Tex. The leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, was charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. His criminal record dates back to 1986. In 2006, he was arrested in Oregon on charges of impersonating a police officer and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Hopkins personifies the macho, wannabe-soldier and pretend-cop mentality that pervades these groups. Those who aren't felons wrap themselves in the Second Amendment, believing the right to bear arms is the only authorization they require to roam the countryside in hot pursuit of their perceived adversaries.
Hopkins' self-styled militia is one of several purporting to patrol the border in an unrequested role as backup to authorized government border enforcers. The danger is that they have no legal authority or training. The chances of something going wrong, such as misfiring a weapon and killing a migrant, a Border Patrol official or even another militia member are high.
In a video of the April 16 incident in which Hopkins' militia members "captured" the migrants, one of his colleagues can be heard admonishing Hopkins: "Don't aim the gun" at the migrants. A spotlight shines on the migrants as they huddle, clearly frightened. One of the members can be heard identifying the militia as the "border patrol."
The video has prompted an array of protests from politicians, law enforcers and human rights groups. "It should go without saying that regular citizens have no authority to arrest or detain anyone," said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
But one authority has been surprisingly quiet — the real Border Patrol. "Border Patrol has never asked us to stand down," said Jim Benvie, speaking for United Constitutional Patriots.
That's troubling. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman offered a vague statement saying the Border Patrol "does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands."
An unequivocal cease-and-desist order is urgently needed before these toy soldiers provoke real tragedy.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH