Militia in New Mexico Detains Asylum Seekers at Gunpoint / by Karie Luidens

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Militia in New Mexico Detains Asylum Seekers at Gunpoint

By Simon Romero
April 18, 2019
New York Times

ALBUQUERQUE — A right-wing militia group operating in southern New Mexico has begun stopping groups of migrant families and detaining them at gunpoint before handing them over to Border Patrol agents, raising tension over the tactics of armed vigilantes along the border between the United States and Mexico.

Members of the group, which calls itself the United Constitutional Patriots, filmed several of their actions in recent days, including the detention this week of a group of about 200 migrants who had recently crossed the border near Sunland Park, N.M., with the intention of seeking asylum. They uploaded videos to social media of exhausted looking migrant families, blinking in the darkness in the glare of what appeared to be the militia’s spotlights. […]

“If these people follow our verbal commands, we hold them until Border Patrol comes,” Mr. Benvie said. “Border Patrol has never asked us to stand down.” […]

The video of this week's episode in the New Mexico desert shows Border Patrol agents arriving on the scene at some point after members of the militia have already come into contact with the migrants. Before the arrival of the federal agents, a woman narrating the video tells a man who appears to be a militia member “Don't aim the gun” in the direction of the families. The migrants can be seen kneeling on the ground and embracing one another.

ACLU: Group illegally detaining migrants

Friday, April 19th, 2019 at 12:05am
Albuquerque Journal

SUNLAND PARK – The ACLU of New Mexico is calling for the governor and attorney general to investigate an “armed vigilante group currently engaged in unlawful detention of hundreds of migrants” on the border near Sunland Park. […]

At a small camp near the border fence in Sunland Park, members of the United Constitutional Patriots said they are not breaking any laws.

“We are detaining people but not illegally. If they do not surrender to our verbal commands, we do not force them to stay with us,” said Jim Benvie, United Constitutional Patriots spokesman.

He said that when his men spot a group of migrants coming through the area, he issues a command in Spanish. “Sientate, that means sit. If they don’t sit, they might run. We will pursue them,” said Benvie. […]

Militia members were infuriated by news of the ACLU letter to the governor and attorney general.

“I think somebody needs to read the frickin’ Constitution because we have a right. Yeah we have a right to bear arms, defend our country,” a man with a bullet-resistant vest said.

“I’m not contesting their use of firearms,” Simonson said [executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico]. “I’m contesting the fact that they are portraying themselves as federal border enforcement agents. They are holding people against their will. They are exposing them to the possibility of violence and danger.”