Border Brouhaha

Dan Frosch, AlterNet, Apr. 12

The way the lawsuit tells it, Jose Rodrigo Quiroz Acosta had been walking for one day and two nights before the group he was traveling with ran out of water and food in the high desert of Cochise County, Ariz., just north of the Mexican border.

It was the winter of 2003, and Quiroz and four other Mexican nationals were trying to cross into Arizona, just as thousands of other undocumented immigrants do every year, choosing the 82-mile swath of border which spans Cochise County because it’s thought to be patrolled less efficiently by the United States Border Patrol than other popular crossing spots in Texas and California.

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Luckily, it seemed, a pick-up truck soon spotted Quiroz and pulled over along side of the road. But when Quiroz approached the truck, a man stepped out of the vehicle and opened up the back of his camper, unleashing two growling dogs. Terrified, Quiroz fled down the highway, but the dogs were too fast, knocking him to the ground and biting him, he says. Quiroz claims the man then walked towards him screaming in English, before grabbing Quiroz’s hair and shaking and smacking him repeatedly on his face, head and neck. The man then walked back to his car and took out what appeared to be a two-way radio; two Border Patrol officers soon appeared and took Quiroz into custody.

Quiroz was deported back to Mexico the next day, but with the help of local immigrants’ rights groups, he decided to sue local rancher Roger Barnett—the man he says attacked him—for battery, false imprisonment and intentionally inflicting emotional distress. He’s not alone. Three other lawsuits are currently pending against Barnett, his wife Barbara and brother Donald who often accompany Barnett as he patrols on or near his 22,000-acre ranch, alleging a litany of charges—from impersonating Border Patrol officers to assaulting and violating the rights of undocumented immigrants or Mexican-Americans whom the Barnetts came upon.

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Most recently, on March 4, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) filed suit against the Barnetts, alleging, among other things, that Roger Barnett, accompanied by Donald and Barbara, assaulted and violated the civil rights of 19 undocumented immigrants they’d found trekking though the Barnett ranch a year ago. According to the lawsuit, Barnett approached the group with his dogs, and waved his gun at them, calling them “fucking Mexicans” and ordering them to move.

The lawsuit also charges that Barnett told one of the women, 23-year-old Ana Maria Vicente, who was hiding in some underbrush, “Levantate perra” (Get up bitch), before kicking her in her leg. Barnett eventually called the Border Patrol, who took the group into custody before deporting them.

“They feared for their lives,” says Araceli S. Perez, the MALDEF lawyer handling the case. “It was clear Barnett’s actions were motivated by racial animus.”

MALDEF has also named Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever in its suit, claiming he’s done nothing to stop Barnett despite the fact that 20 incident reports were filed by his office between 1999 and 2002 regarding Barnett’s detention of immigrants.

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Read the rest of this story here.

Man Arrested, Accused Of Holding Immigrants At Gunpoint

Arizona Republic (Phoenix), Apr. 11

Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies arrested a Mesa man on suspicion of aggravated assault early Monday after he reportedly held seven undocumented immigrants at gunpoint when he spotted the group at a highway rest stop in Gila Bend.

Patrick Haab, 24, reportedly ordered the group to lay on the ground and threatened to shoot them while he waited for U.S. Border Patrol agents to arrive, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said. There is no indication that Haab, an Army reservist assigned to a special forces unit, is affiliated with any groups such as the volunteer Minuteman Project in southern Arizona. Haab declined to discuss the incident with sheriff’s investigators.

The group of immigrants had emerged from some bushes near a rest stop along Interstate 8 when Haab spotted them getting into a truck. While detaining the group, Haab handed another gun to a man at the rest stop and asked for his assistance until federal agents arrived, Arpaio said. The unidentified individual left the scene and sheriff’s detectives were still trying to identify him late Monday.

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