Behind We Build The Wall’s Well-Documented Ties To Border Vigilantes

TOPSHOT - United Constitutional Patriots New Mexico Border Ops militia team member Jim Benvie, 43, from Minnesota, stands in a camper near the US-Mexico border wall in Anapra, New Mexico on March 20, 2019. - The mil... TOPSHOT - United Constitutional Patriots New Mexico Border Ops militia team member Jim Benvie, 43, from Minnesota, stands in a camper near the US-Mexico border wall in Anapra, New Mexico on March 20, 2019. - The militia members say they will patrol the US-Mexico border near Mt. Christo Rey, "Until the wall is built." In recent months, thousands of Central Americans have arrived in Mexico in several caravans in the hope of finding a better life in the United States. US President Donald Trump has branded such migrants a threat to national security, demanding billions of dollars from Congress to build a wall on the southern US border. (Photo by Paul Ratje / AFP) (Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

We Build The Wall, whose founder Brian Kolfage was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday alongside Steve Bannon and two others, is in the hot seat for its leaders’ various alleged financial crimes. But for a year and a half, TPM has covered another side of the group as well: Its extensive and well-documented ties to right-wing border vigilantes.

Much of the initial documentation of the ties surfaced on video. That’s thanks to Jim Benvie, a member and videographer of a since-defunct border vigilante group called the United Constitutional Patriots, later renamed to the Guardian Patriots. UCP members would dress up in fatigues and carry rifles, making themselves resemble Border Patrol officers, and apprehend migrants as they attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

We first covered UCP in April last year, after one of Benvie’s live broadcasts showed the vigilantes stopping dozens of migrants and turning them over to the feds. But Benvie made tons of videos, most of them showing smaller arrests, where the vigilantes would call in federal agents after seeing and apprehending people at the border.

Benvie was ultimately charged and found guilty of impersonating a Border Patrol agent, but not before he had plenty of behind-the-scenes access to We Build The Wall’s first construction site outside El Paso, Texas — including interviews with Kolfage and general counsel Kris Kobach.

UCP members were with Kolfage when, as a stunt, he illegally crossed the southern border into Mexico, in his wheelchair, and then crossed back into the U.S.

In fact, We Build The Wall’s first construction site wasn’t far from the spot at the border where UCP camped out at night, keeping watch and stopping people who attempted to cross.

State and local law enforcement officials in New Mexico, including State Police Chief Tim Johnson and senior officials in Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D) administration, were concerned about the legality of the activity, emails obtained by TPM showed. In addition to Benvie, another UCP member, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, was subsequently charged with a federal gun violation, pleading guilty in January.

Though We Build The Wall’s official stance was that it was not connected to the border vigilantes, the group’s actions said otherwise.

At an event celebrating the completion of the first construction project — where Benvie was filming a livestream for his Facebook fans — We Build The Wall co-founder Dustin Stockton turned to him and expressed his gratitude.

“You guys have shown, Jim, you and your crew have shown how high-traffic this area was,” Stockton said, pointing to the strip of previously un-walled border.

“Your videos turned us on to just how serious this crisis is,” he added. “And when we saw those, the proof is there. We had the absolute proof of what was happening right here. And to be able to shut that off with the people’s money so quickly, it’s moving.”

Another UCP member, Steve “Viper” Brant, sometimes acted as the construction site’s unofficial security.

The border vigilantes weren’t all: Various fringe right-wing figures got special access to the border wall construction site, including Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.

Absurd claims about immigrants became a part of the project’s pitch. In campaigning for a border wall, Kolfage often blurred the line between violent gang members and people attempting to come to America for safety and opportunity.

In one of a few conversations I’ve had with Kolfage over the past year, I pressed him on his views of immigrants.

It was in December, after he’d posted a video of a man who said he was fleeing Honduras for the United States because the gang MS-13 was threatening him over money he owed. Kolfage asserted to me that asylum-seekers are coached, and that “owing money doesn’t qualify you for asylum.”

I pushed: So everyone threatened by gang violence in Central America chose to be involved with gangs?

“Women probably not,” he said. “Men have a choice.”

Latest News

Notable Replies

  1. I don’t know whether this story is getting better and better or worse and worse.
    And that Jayco camper was built just a few miles from here. Sorry about that.

  2. Now that they have been found out they will reassign themselves to protect Trump at the White House.

  3. Between these 25 million morons gave to Bannon and Co and the 170K they gave an InforWars “correspondent” charged with robbery… there is a case for raising taxes… create a new tax on wingnuttery, those guys have way too much money and keep blowing it on scammers and other stupid things.

  4. I wonder how many more schemes like this are out there…there has always seemed to be a network of people on the right taking advantage of the anger of the people they had inflamed, sucking money out of them to “stick it to the libs” in whatever way sounded worst. How many were just fronts for grifters? We may start to see…and, we also now know why Trump and Barr were pushing so hard to turn SDNY over to one of their toadies, there are likely many more investigations going on that we have no idea about but which will make a big splash when they are finally revealed.

  5. I remember from ninth grade biology the concept of homeostasis, where the number of wolves fluctuates with the number of rabbits available for the wolves to eat. Lots of rabbits, soon lots of wolves. Fewer rabbits, many of the wolves die off. I think here we have a lot of really credulous people these days, and lots of grifters preying on them.

Continue the discussion at

8 more replies


Avatar for discobot Avatar for fgs Avatar for mondfledermaus Avatar for mattinpa Avatar for drriddle Avatar for kitty Avatar for serendipitoussomnambulist Avatar for uneducated Avatar for dominic Avatar for dougsanders Avatar for shackle5pin Avatar for dogmaalsocatma Avatar for autumnwinds Avatar for LeeHarveyGriswold

Continue Discussion
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: