An armed group of citizen patriots patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico have vowed to continue operations to assist Border Patrol despite an eviction from their previous camp.
Jim Benvie, spokesman for the newly formed Guardian Patriots, told the Las Cruces Sun News numerous “volunteer patriots” continue to patrol sections of the New Mexico border and work in conjunction with Border Patrol officials, though they’ve moved to a new location on private property.
“Nobody who’s been on the border left. There’s been no breakup. Everyone is still here,” Benvie said, disputing media reports that the group had packed up after the arrest of Larry Mitchell Hopkins, the self-proclaimed “commander” of the United Constitutional Patriots New Mexico Border Ops.
Hopkins is currently held without bond in Albuquerque on federal weapons charges unrelated to the border activities, according to the news site.
Just a few days after the arrest in mid-April, Union Pacific evicted the group from their camp near a border fence that company officials claimed was on railroad property. The fallout followed allegations by the American Civil Liberties Union that the Constitutional Patriots were detaining migrants and children at gunpoint.
Benvie denies the allegations, but the controversy resulted in the crowd funding sites PayPal and GoFundMe closing online campaigns for the Constitutional Patriots, so the group relocated to private property and changed its name to Guardian Patriots.
But Benvie contends they’re not leaving any time soon.
“If we left here right now we’re letting America down,” said Benvie, who also disputed media reports about racist comments and intimidating behavior attributed to the group.
Benvie told the Sun News an Oklahoma man arrived in camp last month with an AR-15 and a handgun and he was eager to use the weapons, but the Guardian Patriots sent him on his way.
“He had never been vetted,” Benvie said. “He was never a member of the group.”
When one member saw the man appeared trigger happy, he told him, “’Dude, it ain’t like that. We’re not using guns. We don’t point guns at people,’” Benvie said.
The man reportedly then expressed a desire to “shoot them all” and the Guardian Patriots immediately disavowed him.
“We got rid of him and we filed a police report,” Benvie said, adding that the group’s members carry weapons in their vehicles for emergencies but do not typically carry them.
Border Patrol “welcomes assistance” from private groups and the public in locating illegal immigrants but “does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands,” according to a statement.
Federal officials certainly need the help.
Last Thursday alone, Border Patrol took more than 1,700 illegal immigrants into custody in just the El Paso sector, one of nine along the southern border.
Center for Immigration Studies analysis of U.S. Customs and Border Protection data finds the immigration crisis is getting worse by the month, with nearly 100,000 apprehensions in April.
“Specifically, total Border Patrol apprehensions in April 2019 were 98,977, an almost 7 percent increase over the month before. The individual numbers are worse, because the number of (family units) increased to 58,474 in April, an almost 10 percent increase over the month before,” CIS reports.
“Plainly, (family units) and the smugglers who assisting them have identified the loopholes that they can exploit to enter the United States illegally and gain release,” according to CIS.
Most illegal immigrants are coming from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador and claiming asylum with a child by their side, which expedites their processing and release. They’re then free to roam the U.S. for years before their case is fully adjudicated through the system.
According to an April report by the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s CBP Families and Children Care Panel:
The current time to process an asylum claim for anyone who is not detained is over two years, not counting appeals.