New Mexico senators request probe into militia group detaining migrants

New Mexico senators request probe into militia group detaining migrants
© Stefani Reynolds

New Mexico Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate Democrats ask Pompeo to recuse himself from Ukraine matters Bureau of Land Management staff face relocation or resignation as agency moves west Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows MORE (D) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenators want FERC to protect critical infrastructure from Huawei threats Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics This week: House to vote on Turkey sanctions bill MORE (D) are calling for an investigation following reports that a right-wing militia group has begun stopping migrant families along the southern border.  

“Reports of a militia group illegally operating in New Mexico and intimidating asylum seekers must be immediately investigated by the proper authorities. Vigilante groups attempting to utilize authorities reserved for law enforcement cannot be tolerated," Udall and Heinrich said in a joint statement Friday.

They added that they will "closely monitor this situation and work with local and federal authorities to ensure a full investigation, and that public safety and the rule of law is upheld.” 

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The New York Times reported Friday that the group, which calls itself United Constitutional Patriots, has recently filmed their detention of migrants and uploaded the footage on social media, including stopping approximately 200 migrants who crossed the border this week near Sunland Park, N.M., and who intended to seek asylum. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter asking New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamCapitol Christmas tree lights up Washington Here are 16 places celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time this year New Mexico releases plan to provide free college to all state residents: report MORE (D) to address the situation.

Lujan Grisham said it is "completely unacceptable” that migrant families “might be menaced or threatened in any way, shape or form when they arrive at our border.”

“It should go without saying that regular citizens have no authority to arrest or detain anyone,” she said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the governor told CNN that they are working with the attorney general's office, "state police and local police to determine what has gone on and what can and will be done."

Jim Benvie, a spokesman for the United Constitutional Patriots, told the Times that their actions were legal and similar to a "verbal citizen's arrest."  

“We can't make them stay if they don't want to,” he said. 

Benvie added to the Times that members of the group are told not to point their weapons at the migrants, adding that they have a new rule that members of the militia group cannot carry a military-style rifle, but they can still carry a handgun while on patrol.