A group of 16 illegal aliens is suing an Arizona rancher, claiming he violated their civil rights, falsely imprisoned them and inflicted emotional distress by holding them at gunpoint on his property along the border.
Roger Barnett (photo: Southern Poverty Law Center)
The federal lawsuit against Douglas, Ariz., rancher Roger Barnett, his wife, Barbara, and his brother, Donald, is taking place before Judge John Roll in U.S. District Court and will run through Feb. 13. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, is representing the five female and 11 male illegals.
Al Garza, National Executive Director for Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, attended the first day of hearings on Monday. While the plaintiffs allege that Barnett attacked them because he is racist, Garza, an American of Mexican descent, said Barnett has never shown any hostility toward him.
“There is no racist agenda here, or I wouldn’t be a part of it because I am an American of Hispanic descent,” Garza said. “We don’t hate anyone from any particular country. We just want our laws enforced. This is not about color.”
Many of the aliens are residents of Michoacan, Mexico. Four live in Illinois, one resides in Georgia and another in Michigan. All of the plaintiffs currently living in the U.S. listed pseudonyms in the lawsuit due to “fear of adverse action based on immigration status.”
According to the complaint, Barnett, a resident of Douglas who owns 22,000 acres along the border in southeastern Arizona, approached the group of illegals on an all-terrain vehicle on March 7, 2004. He allegedly began yelling at them in English and broken Spanish while aiming his gun at the group. While Barnett’s dog barked at the intruders, the illegal aliens accused him of ordering the dog to attack. One of the women said the rancher kicked her because she refused to get up.
Barnett allegedly detained the trespassing illegals until Border Patrol agents arrived.
But Garza said their testimonies don’t add up.
“I saw yesterday that these stories were fabricated,” he said. “They were coerced into saying things that would ordinarily not be said by an illegal immigrant with no education.”
Garza said Barnett’s dog has never been vicious and that Barnett did not kick the woman. He also said one female witness told the court the group had been robbed in Mexico and that the only time they feared for their lives was when Barnett accosted them.
“She said she was not afraid in Mexico because there were only four men, and there was only one gun, and the way that they robbed them was in a very nice, very polite fashion,” he said. “But when Barnett came into the picture, she said he was very vicious and he wanted to kill them. So they were more afraid of one American defending his property than four robbers on their side.”
The lawsuit alleges that Barnett never told the illegals they were trespassing and failed to post a sign notifying them that they were on private property. Because they detained the group, the Barnett family is accused of depriving the plaintiffs of equal protection and due process under the law.
“What in the world are they doing on anyone’s property?” Garza asked. “What are they doing in the United States? It doesn’t make any sense.”
He continued, “They are here breaking laws. They conspired to come here. What makes anyone believe that they are credible?”
MALDEF claims the family attacked, harassed, threatened and held the illegals against their will because they were motivated by racial and class-based discrimination. The Barnetts allegedly caused the group “severe emotional and mental distress,” including fear, anxiety, humiliation, stress, frustration and sadness. Each illegal alien is suing for $1 million in actual damages and $1 million for punitive or exemplary damages.
Illegals migrating across Barnett ranch (photo: Donald Barnett)
In March, the same judge refused to have the lawsuit thrown out, because he said he believed the family denied the aliens’ right to interstate travel and that the detention was racially motivated.
The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and Arizonans for Immigration Control have been rallying in support of Barnett in front of the court.
Garza said property owners are forced to deal with the consequences when immigration laws are not strictly enforced. Illegal aliens cross the border and destroy private property every day.
“I wouldn’t blame the guy if he told them to leave,” Garza said. “I would have done the same thing because of all of their discarded trash. They urinate everywhere. There is feces all over the place, discarded clothing, shoes, backpacks, cans and other things that we’re responsible to pick up. They do that, and we’re racist?”
In a 2004 interview with Fred Elbel and Frosty Wooldridge, Barnetts said he used to pick up trash from illegals, but he no longer makes the effort.
“I won’t pick it up because some day, I think if our government gets up off their a– and does the job they’re supposed to, they’re going to quit coming across and I can make one big concentrated effort, if I’m still alive, to get the trash off,” he said. “It’s going to take 20, 30 or 40 people with garbage bags to carry it off … of one particular area. Some days, I think what the hell am I doing this for?”
Garza said groups of illegals cross the border and head to Tucson, Phoenix and other staging areas in Arizona.
Illegals stop to rest on trail that crosses Barnett ranch (photo: Donald Barnett)
“From there, they go into Michigan, Idaho and wherever the demand is,” he said. “They find jobs in the hotel business, working at golf courses, landscaping, cooking, and washing dishes. It’s not because Americans won’t do these jobs; it’s because they don’t want to pay.”
While illegals may only earn $7 an hour for such jobs, Garza said they find other ways to compensate for lack of income.
“They don’t mind because they go on welfare and use aliases. They get welfare, food stamps, free education, section 8 housing. They don’t have to pay taxes. Why not work for $7 an hour?”
Garza told WND he believes politicians need to stop caving into demands for cheap labor so the influx of illegals will stop. They must secure the borders, enforce immigration law, hold people who hire illegals accountable and stop giving social benefits to noncitizens.
He said, “We’re inviting them by giving them an appetite for things like jobs, public and social services like welfare, free medical and things that we don’t get as taxpayers.”
In the interview, Barnett said he has tried to contact his representatives about the wave of illegals coming across his property.
“They won’t listen,” he said. “They’re useless.”