The United States has a border control problem. Whether you call it a “crisis” may be a matter of debate, but the fact of that matter is that drugs, illegal immigrants and criminals are flowing into the country at an alarming rate.
But one group of citizens has had enough. They’re called the United Constitutional Patriots, and they just detained hundreds of illegal immigrants as part of a civilian effort to reinforce America’s southern border.
“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,” The New York Times reported Thursday.
While The Times labeled them as a militia, however, members of the Patriots have a much more down-to-earth description for who they are.
“We’re just Americans. We’re veterans, we’re ex-law enforcement, we’re people that care about our national security,” group spokesman Jim Benvie told the Daily Mail. “We’re people that care about our strained Border Patrol.”
A video from Benvie shows the Patriots detaining numerous individuals on a roadside near the border.
Patriots volunteers are often armed, but they say they merely help find and verbally detain illegal immigrants until the Border Patrol can arrive.
“If these people follow our verbal commands, we hold them until Border Patrol comes,” Benvie told The Times. The firearms are reserved for self-defense, he said.
Benvie acknowledged that the group’s options are limited. “We can’t make them stay if they don’t want to,” he said.
“Border Patrol has never asked us to stand down,” he said. Indeed, after the group detained several hundred migrants from Latin America who crossed the border into New Mexico, federal authorities arrived soon after and took the aliens into official custody. There was no violence.
But as you might guess, not everyone is happy with the actions of the Patriots. The Democrat governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, called them “completely unacceptable” and expressed outrage that migrants “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. That statement, however, appears to be untrue.
While the left-leaning Times printed Grisham’s declaration that citizens have “no authority to arrest or detain” without any editorial comment or fact-check, the very same organization went into detail about how citizen’s arrests are legal in a 2016 article helpfully titled “How to Make a Citizen’s Arrest.”
“Statutes governing when and how laypeople can arrest their compatriots vary. … In California, you must witness the crime in order to make an arrest for a misdemeanor; for a felony, you don’t,” The Times reported.
“Decide ahead of time whether you intend to restrain the person: Most states allow for the use of necessary force,” the article said.
While New Mexico law doesn’t specifically address the question of a citizen’s arrest, it is still legal by default under certain circumstances.
“In New Mexico, so long as the arrestor had a reasonable subjective belief that such a crime had been committed, the privilege could apply,” The Albuquerque Journal said in a 2011 article. “The arrestor must use no more than reasonably necessary force in effecting the detention.”
And while there’s room for legal experts on both sides of the issue to argue the details — isn’t that what lawyers do? — it’s worth remembering that entering the United States by clandestinely crossing the border is clearly against federal law.
But here’s the main point to all this: There shouldn’t even be a controversy over citizens stopping illegal immigrants, because a truly secure border would make this unnecessary.
The fact that a group of Americans — call them a militia, patriots, whatever — even feels the need to patrol the border area and round up migrants who are pouring into our country should be a red flag that something is wrong. Citizens shouldn’t have to do the job of Border Patrol, yet they were able to stop these migrants before federal officers because officials are overwhelmed.
That’s exactly why effective border security, which combines physical barriers in key areas with enough personnel and equipment to do the job well, is vital for New Mexico and the United States as a whole.
If liberals are so distraught at the idea of citizens stepping in and detaining lawbreakers, maybe they should step up and support real border enforcement for once.
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