Teams of volunteer “legal observers” will be monitoring a group that plans to patrol the Arizona border for illegal entrants in April, despite fears for the safety of volunteers that led the Arizona ACLU to reconsider its sponsorship.
About 25 people showed up to be trained in Tucson on Wednesday by Stanford law student Ray Ybarra, who said he submitted a letter of resignation to his two-year fellowship from the American Civil Liberties Union when he learned the group might withdraw its backing.
The ACLU has not accepted Ybarra’s resignation and it may yet sponsor the project, said Eleanor Eisenberg, Arizona ACLU director.
At the meeting, Ybarra told the group that the duties probably would be more boring than dangerous. But he opened by saying, “The ACLU had a lot of concerns, like maybe we shouldn’t be putting people out in the middle of the desert with crazy white supremacists.”
“Armed!” interrupted Eisenberg, the state ACLU director, who attended the meeting and told the trainees that the group was “negotiating a way to carry out this project that accomplishes its purpose without putting people at risk.”
Beth Sanders, who worked with No More Deaths to give humanitarian aid to migrants during Arizona’s summer, said a simple “presence” is often enough to have an effect, and that’s why she signed on.
Sanders said she doesn’t expect problems. In addition to publicity on this side of the border, activists are spreading the word where migrants gather in Mexico to avoid that stretch of border during April, she said.