FBI arrests leader of US ‘patriots’ stopping migrants at border

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In this photo taken on March 20, 2019, members of a US militia patrol the US-Mexico border in Sunland Park, New Mexico. (AFP / Paul Ratje)
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Border Patrol vans drop off migrants at Meerscheidt Recreation Center on Saturday morning, April 13, 2019 in Las Cruces, N.M. (AP)
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A group of about 30 Brazilian migrants, who had just crossed the border, get into a US Border Patrol van, taking them off the property of Jeff Allen, who used to run a brick factory near Mt. (AFP)
Updated 21 April 2019

FBI arrests leader of US ‘patriots’ stopping migrants at border

  • John Hopkins leads the UCP, which describes itself as a “patriot group” helping deal with a surge in undocumented migrants
  • The American Civil Liberties Union accuses UCP of being a “fascist militia organization” illegally detaining asylum seekers

LAS CRUCES, US: A New Mexico man belonging to an armed group that has detained Central American families near the US-Mexico border was arrested Saturday in a border community on a criminal complaint accusing him of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, authorities said.
The FBI said in a statement it arrested 69-year-old Larry Mitchell Hopkins in Sunland Park with the assistance of local police. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a separate statement that Hopkins was a member of the group that had stopped migrants.
Hopkins was booked into the Dona Ana County detention center in Las Cruces and it wasn’t immediately known whether he has an attorney who could comment on the allegations.
The FBI statement did not provide information on Hopkins’ background, and FBI spokesman Frank Fisher told The Associated Press that no additional information would be released until after Hopkins has an initial appearance Monday in federal court in Las Cruces.
The FBI said Hopkins is from Flora Vista, a rural community in northern New Mexico and approximately 353 miles (572 kilometers) north of Sunland Park, which is a suburb of El Paso, Texas.

Hopkins,  also known as Johnny Horton, represents himself as commander of the United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), a small volunteer group camped out near Sunland Park since late February.
The UCP describes itself as a “patriot group” helping over-stretched US Border Patrol agents deal with a surge in undocumented migrants.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday accused it of being a “fascist militia organization” illegally detaining and kidnapping asylum seekers.
Jim Benvie, a spokesman for the UCP, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hector Balderas, New Mexico’s attorney general, described Hopkins as “a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families.”
“Today’s arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes,” Balderas said in a statement.
Horton was previously arrested in Oregon in 2006 on suspicion of impersonating a police officer and being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Mexico’s government on Saturday said it had “deep concern” about armed groups that intimidate migrants.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it did not support citizens taking law enforcement into their own hands but encouraged the public to be its eyes and ears on the border.
“Border Patrol welcomes assistance from the community and encourages anyone who witnesses or suspects illegal activity to call 911, or the US Border Patrol,” CBP said in a statement.
One UCP member, who declined to be named, said the group are US military veterans who carried weapons for self defense but that they never pointed guns at migrants, as has been reported.
“People misconceive what we are doing,” the UCP member said. “All we’re down there to do is back up Border Patrol. They’re so thinned out with all these people coming in.” 

Armed civilian groups have been a fixture on the border for years, especially when large numbers of migrants come. But, unlike previous times, many of the migrants crossing now are children.
In the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, which has emerged as the second-busiest corridor for illegal crossings after Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, 86% of arrests in March were people who came as families or unaccompanied children.


Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk — World Health Organization

Updated 11 min 59 sec ago

Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk — World Health Organization

  • WHO issues first report on microplastics in drinking water
  • Reassures consumers that risk is low, but says more study needed
GENEVA: Microplastics contained in drinking water pose a “low” risk to human health at current levels, but more research is needed to reassure consumers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
Studies over the past year on plastic particles detected in tap and bottled water have sparked public concerns but the limited data appears reassuring, the UN agency said its first report on potential health risks associated with ingestion.
Microplastics enter drinking water sources mainly through run-off and wastewater effluent, the WHO said. Evidence shows that microplastics found in some bottled water seem to be at least partly due to the bottling process and/or packaging such as plastic caps, it said.
“The headline message is to reassure drinking water consumers around the world, that based on this assessment, our assessment of the risk is that it is low,” Bruce Gordon of the WHO’s department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health, told a briefing.
The WHO did not recommended routine monitoring for microplastics in drinking water. But research should focus on issues including what happens to chemical additives in the particles once they enter the gastrointestinal tract, it said.
The majority of plastic particles in water are larger than 150 micrometers in diameter and are excreted from the body, while “smaller particles are more likely to cross the gut wall and reach other tissues,” it said.
Health concerns have centered around smaller particles, said Jennifer De France, a WHO technical expert and one of the report’s authors.
“For these smallest size particles, where there is really limited evidence, we need know more about what is being absorbed, the distribution and their impacts,” she said.
More research is needed into risks from microplastics exposure throughout the environment — “in our drinking water, air and food,” she added.
Alice Horton, a microplastics researcher at Britain’s National Oceanography Center, said in a statement on the WHO’s findings: “There are no data available to show that microplastics pose a hazard to human health, however this does not necessarily mean that they are harmless.”
“It is important to put concerns about exposure to microplastics from drinking water into context: we are widely exposed to microplastics in our daily lives via a wide number of sources, of which drinking water is just one.”
Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card, a study commissioned by the environmental charity WWF International said in June. That study said the largest source of plastic ingestion was drinking water, but another major source was shellfish.
The biggest overall health threat in water is from microbial pathogens — including from human and livestock waste entering water sources — that cause deadly diarrheal disease, especially in poor countries lacking water treatment systems, the WHO said.
Some 2 billion people drink water contaminated with faeces, causing nearly 1 million deaths annually, Gordon said, adding: “That has got to be the focus of regulators around the world.”