Militia group detaining migrants at border, report says

A militia group near the US-Mexico border has started detaining migrants and handing them over to the US Border Patrol, the New York Times reported, citing social media posts and a spokesman for the group.

The Times reported that a spokesman for the United Constitutional Patriots militia group said their actions were legal, “comparing the detention of the migrants to ‘a verbal citizen’s arrest.'”

But videos showing migrants held by the group drew swift condemnation from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, which sent a letter to state authorities denouncing the actions and asking the government to step in.

“We cannot allow racist and armed vigilantes to kidnap and detain people seeking asylum,” the ACLU’s letter said. “We urge you to immediately investigate this atrocious and unlawful conduct.”

CNN is reaching out to US Customs and Border Protection, the United Constitutional Patriots and New Mexico officials for comment.

The New York Times reported that Carlos A. Diaz, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, “declined to discuss the episode or the United Constitutional Patriots, but said the agency ‘does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands.'”

In a statement to the New York Times, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said: “These individuals should not attempt to exercise authority reserved for law enforcement.”

And New Mexico’s governor told the newspaper that the group’s actions were “completely unacceptable.”

“It should go without saying that regular citizens have no authority to arrest or detain anyone,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said, according to the Times.

CNN’s Paul P. Murphy, Geneva Sands and Deanna Hackney contributed to this report.