The videos that went viral on April 16th shocked viewers: Shaky camera footage from the New Mexico desert shows heavily armed, non-governmental militia members “arresting” hundreds of migrant families at gunpoint. Flashlights illuminate the faces of children and their parents as they kneel in the dirt, detained by the vigilantes until Border Patrol arrives. The vigilante group, which calls itself the “United Constitutional Patriots,” has, in recent months, illegally detained hundreds of migrant and asylum-seeking families on New Mexico’s border with Mexico.

After UCP’s video circulated on Facebook, authorities in New Mexico faced pressure to act. On Saturday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested the group’s self-proclaimed leader.

UCP’s social media strategy has put armed militias patrolling the southern border in the public spotlight. But the lineage of armed (and often racist and violent) vigilante groups operating on the United States–Mexico border goes back as far as the border itself….

Pacific Standard Magazine