MALDEF Files Civil Lawsuit On Behalf Of Migrants Detained And Assaulted By Border Vigilantes

March 04, 2005

TUCSON, AZ – MALDEF today filed a civil suit in federal court in Tucson, Arizona on behalf of a group of migrants who allege they were violently assaulted, battered, detained, and threatened with death by members of vigilante groups operating along the Arizona-Mexico border. The lawsuit charges Roger Barnett, his wife Barbara Barnett, his brother Donald Barnett, Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, and unknown co-conspirators with conspiring to violate the travelers’ civil rights.

The plaintiffs are five women and 11 men who were resting at a wash in Douglas, Arizona when they were accosted by defendant Roger Barnett, armed with a gun and accompanied by a large dog. Roger Barnett held the group of migrants captive at gunpoint, threatening that his dog would attack or that he would shoot anyone who tried to leave. During the encounter, Barnett kicked a plaintiff as she was lying, unarmed, on the ground.

This lawsuit stems from just one of many instances of violent vigilante activity along the Arizona-Mexico border, dozens of which have been reported to the Cochise County Sheriff. “Sheriff Dever has been on notice for almost a decade of vigilante activity in his own backyard,” said MALDEF staff attorney Victor Rodriguez. “Yet little has been done to prevent the continued harm to the migrant community.”

“By filing this action, migrants are sending a strong message to those individuals that mistakenly believe they can violate migrant civil rights with impunity,” added MALDEF staff attorney Araceli Perez. “This lawsuit highlights the danger when laypersons, motivated by racial animus, attempt to take the law into their own hands.”

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund