FILE PHOTO – A general view shows a newly built section of the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Sunland Park, U.S. opposite the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in this picture taken from the Mexico side of the U.S.-Mexico border April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico said on Saturday it had “deep concern” about armed groups that intimidate and extort migrants on the border, shortly after the ACLU and Democratic senators called for a probe into such citizen efforts to block migrants from crossing.
“These types of practices can drive human rights abuses of people who migrate or request asylum or refuge in the United States,” Mexico’s Foreign Relations Ministry said in a statement, referring to “militia groups” in New Mexico.
It added that patrols “on the margins” of the law create risks for the safety of migrants.
On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico condemned the United Constitutional Patriots, which patrols the southern U.S. border in New Mexico, as a “fascist militia organization” operating outside the law.
The group has posted videos showing members dressed in camouflage and armed with semi-automatic rifles holding groups of migrants, many Central American families seeking asylum, until U.S. Border Patrol agents arrive.
The small volunteer group says it is helping the Border Patrol deal with a surge in undocumented migrants at the southern border. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has toughened various policies and put pressure on Mexico in an attempt to discourage people from attempting to cross into the United States illegally.
Along with the ACLU, New Mexico Democratic senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall also called for an investigation into the border group.
“Threatening innocent children and families fleeing violence and seeking asylum is unacceptable and flies in the face of our values as a state and a nation,” they said in a joint statement on Twitter on Friday.
Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Richard Chang