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16 Illegal Immigrants File Suit Against Arizona Rancher

US

"violation of civil rights and infliction of emotional distress"

An Arizona man who has single-handedly waged a border war against illegal immigrants traversing his property to enter the United States is reportedly being sued by 16 Mexican nationals. The illegal immigrants are accusing Roger Barnett, 64, of conspiring to violate their civil rights when he stopped them at gunpoint on his ranch property as they tried to cross over into the U.S.

Barnett says he started rounding up and turning over illegal immigrants to the U.S. Border Patrol in 1998 when a group of bandits destroyed his property, killed his livestock and broke into his home. Over the years, he estimates catching as many as 12,000 trying to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

According to the Washington Times, Barnett's property lies in an area the Border Patrol knows as "the avenue of choice" for immigrants looking to enter the country illegally.

In March, 2004, Barnett approached a group of illegal immigrants while carrying a gun and accompanied by his dog. Attorneys of the five women and 11 men are accusing him of holding the group captive, threatening to shoot anyone who tried to flee, as they waited for the Border Patrol to arrive.

On Monday, the federal trial against the Arizona rancher will continue. The group of immigrants is seeking $32 million in damages for what they consider violations of their civil rights and infliction of emotional distress. The group is being represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which also charged Mr. Barnett's wife, Barbara, his brother, Donald, and Larry Dever, the Cochise County Sheriff who they argue did nothing to prevent Mr. Barnett from holding their clients at "gunpoint, yelling obscenities at them and kicking one of the women."

Last March, U.S. District Judge John Roll rejected Barnett's request to have the charges dropped. Barnett's attorney, David Hardy, is defending his client's actions, arguing that illegal immigrants on his property did not have the same rights as U.S. citizens.

"This is my land. I'm the victim here," Mr. Barnett told the Times. "When someone's home and loved ones are in jeopardy and the government seemingly can't do anything about it, I feel justified in taking matters into my own hands. And I always watch my back."

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