TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Rancher Roger Barnett insists he did the right thing back in 2004, "They're trespassing. Like, are they going to come in your house? Or, what are you going to do when they walk through your house? Or, through your backyard? I just have a bigger back yard than you do," said Barnett.
Seven years ago, Barnett said he was just protecting his own back yard. He held 16 illegal immigrants against their will, on his sprawling Cochise County ranch. But, some of those illegal immigrants turned around and sued, and won. And, after a trial in 2009, Barnett was ordered to pay more than $70,000 dollars. The jury said Barnett acted illegally, something he disagrees with, "I wasn't unlawfully detaining anyone. I just had them sit there. They were on my property, and I called Border Patrol and the Border Patrol come and got them, like I always did," explained Barnett.
Two years after Barnett's case, Arizona voters passed a constitutional amendment preventing anyone in the U.S. illegally from collecting on a lawsuit. And, on Monday, Governor Jan Brewer signed a law making that amendment retroactive to 2004; the same year Barnett got in trouble.
"Vigilante activities need to be condemned, they need to be prosecuted. And, they need to be stopped in Arizona. This law gives a green light to vigilante groups to move forward with impunity," said Jennifer Allen, Border Action Network Executive Director.
The Border Action Network Director says Barnett and another Texas rancher, Casey Nethercott, are vigilantes.
Nethercott also had a suit filed against him in 2004. In that case, The Southern Poverty Law Center said Nethercott pistol whipped two illegal immigrants. And, now, its legal director said she's not afraid to go after more people like Barnett or Nethercott because of the new law, "From a legal standpoint, it's nothing but the worst form of political posturing. There is absolutely no doubt that this law will never apply to any lawsuit in the state of Arizona or elsewhere," firmly said Mary Bauer.
Roger Barnett told KGUN9 he has not paid any of the $70,000 he owes. He said he's following the judicial process and going through appeals court. And, Barnett said he will continue to call Border Patrol when he sees illegal immigrants on his property; and, even said he would detain them again, depending on the specific situation.
Nethercott was forced to give up his ranch near Douglas; that $50,000 went to the illegal immigrants who sued him, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He still owes $450,000.
In: Regional News
Tags: New, Arizona, Law, Prevents, ILLEGALS, Suing, Money, SPLC, Voters, Governor, Jan Brewer,
Location: Arizona, United States (load item map)
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