Roger Barnett

Rancher ruling adds to border debate

imagesArizona rancher Roger Barnett initially faced the possibility of paying $32 million to compensate several illegal immigrants he stopped at gunpoint on his land. He walked away instead with a verdict that rejected any notion he violated the trespassers’ civil rights and affirmed that U.S. citizens can still detain aliens crossing the border.

What remains to be seen, though, is what impact the $77,800 in damages that a jury Tuesday ordered Mr. Barnett to pay will have on America’s larger immigration debate and the efforts of some illegals to get compensation from a country they aren’t even allowed to enter.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), an immigrant-advocacy group that helped bring the lawsuit, had claimed Mr. Barnett violated the civil rights of 16 illegal immigrants he stopped crossing his border property after they had illegally sneaked into the United States. MALDEF sought $2 million in actual and punitive damages for each of the plaintiffs.

The outcome fell far short of the advocacy group’s wishes.

U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, for starters, dismissed the claims of 10 of the illegals because they did not testify at trial. He then tossed related conspiracy complaints against Mr. Barnett’s wife, Barbara, and his brother Donald, saying illegal immigrants had no constitutionally protected right to travel in the United States.

Judge Roll said the Barnetts, who live in close proximity to the border, could reasonably assume that large groups of people they encountered hiding or trespassing on their property were doing so with the aid of smugglers.

He said entering the United States illegally was a federal felony, for which a citizen’s arrest was authorized under Arizona law.

Ultimately, the jury of four men and four women decided that Mr. Barnett did not violate the civil rights of the remaining six plaintiffs and was not guilty of false imprisonment, battery and conspiracy as charged in the suit.

“Citizens who live along the border, like citizens anywhere in the country, have a right to act in such instances,” said David T. Hardy, one of Mr. Barnett’s attorneys. “The vindication of the Barnetts should clear the way for other Americans to act responsibly without fear of specious and politically motivated lawsuits.”

The jury awarded $17,802 to the six remaining illegal immigrants on their claims of assault and the infliction of emotional distress – $7,500 each to two, $1,400 each to two others and $1 each to the remaining pair. It also ordered Mr. Barnett to pay $60,000 in punitive damages.

MALDEF lawyer David Urias told reporters in Tucson his clients were disappointed with the verdict, “but I think that overall this was a victory for the plaintiffs.” A co-counsel, Nina Perales, called the verdict “a resounding victory that sends a message that vigilante violence against immigrants will not be tolerated.”

But Mr. Hardy saw it differently, describing the verdict as an “80 percent victory” for the Barnetts, adding that he planned to appeal the decision based on what he called “solid grounds.”

A 2006 Arizona constitutional amendment bars awards of punitive damages to illegal immigrants, and Mr. Barnett’s attorneys are expected to argue that the jury was given flawed instructions by the judge, which led to the award of those damages.

Carmen Mercer, vice president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), said the verdict showed that citizens have a right to protect their property. She said she would hardly call the jury verdict a victory since “the plaintiffs are only getting a small fraction of what they were seeking.”

Ms. Mercer, a business owner in Tombstone, Ariz., and a naturalized U.S. citizen from Germany, said those who live on the Southwest border find it “emotionally distressing” to see the daily destruction caused by illegal immigration.

Roger Barnett and wife Barbara survey a group of illegal immigrants they stopped on their Arizona ranch and turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol. (Special to The Washington Times)

She also noted that five of the plaintiffs in the Barnett lawsuit are now living in the U.S. with visa applications pending, “which tells me that as of this moment, they are still illegally in this country.

“What, pray tell, is our government asking of them in terms of paying a fine for breaking the law by entering this country unlawfully?” said Ms. Mercer. “Instead, they are being rewarded by getting a visa.”

Glenn Spencer, president of the American Border Patrol, a private organization that uses high-tech equipment to highlight what it calls the “crisis of illegal immigration,” said he worked with Mr. Barnett for more than 10 years and knew he had been “very careful when dealing with the illegal trespassers.”

A resident of Sierra Vista, Ariz., Mr. Spencer called the lawsuit “a malicious prosecution,” but said it had shed light on the fact that the federal government has failed to protect the nation’s borders.

“I was in Washington, D.C., 10 years ago when Roger Barnett submitted testimony to a congressional committee describing the terrible situation on the border,” Mr. Spencer said. “Now, 10 years later, Roger is sued by open-borders activists, while at the same time the federal government is constructing a vehicle barrier along the border south of his ranch and lying to the public by saying it is a fence.

“Roger Barnett is a hero and a victim – a victim of a duplicitous government that has no intention of protecting the border with Mexico,” he said.

Shannon McGauley, founder and president of the Texas Minutemen, called the verdict “a very important ruling,” saying it reaffirmed the “Castle Doctrine,” now applicable in both Arizona and Texas. The doctrine protects people who use force to defend themselves from an intruder by presuming that a person defending their property “acted in self-defense.”

“On our border watches, we’ve been very careful to just observe and report illegal aliens to prevent such suits,” he said.

Michael Hethmon, another of Mr. Barnett’s attorneys, said MALDEF and other illegal-immigrant advocacy groups have threatened local governments and citizens for years with lawsuits to intimidate them from protecting their communities and property.

“But the Barnett family are Americans who refused to be intimidated,” he said.

The lawsuit was based on a March 7, 2004, incident in which Mr. Barnett approached a group of illegal immigrants while he patrolled his 22,000-acre Cross Rail Ranch near Douglas, carrying a gun and accompanied by his dog. The ranch has become a major corridor for armed drug and immigrant smugglers.

The suit charged the Barnetts “engaged in a private campaign and conspired with each other and others to ‘hunt’ and detain against their will, and at gunpoint, Latino migrants or presumed migrants such as plaintiffs.”

But Mr. Hardy argued that the Barnett ranch is frequently crossed by illegal immigrants and drug smugglers and his client was checking for damages when his dog started barking and ran off into the desert. He said Mr. Barnett followed and came across a large group of people “apparently trying to hide.”

“Since drug smugglers are frequently armed, I drew my handgun,” Mr. Barnett said in an April 18, 2007, deposition. “I holstered it after assuring myself they were not armed.”

Fortunately, there is good reason to doubt that they will be able to collect any money from him. The central part of the suit was the allegation by MALDEF and the illegals that Barnett violated the rights guaranteed to the illegal-alien trespassers under the Civil Rights Act of 1866 – legislation enacted after the Civil War to protect newly freed slaves from intimidation by the Ku Klux Klan. The implicit argument that a man protecting his property is somehow analogous to the thuggery of the KKK is quite simply obscene. The eight-person federal jury hearing the case saw the absurdity of that argument and unanimously voted to clear Barnett on that charge. MALDEF’s failure to prove that Barnett violated the illegals’ civil rights gives him the opportunity to claim attorneys’ fees – effectively negating the $78,000 that he is liable for.

Roger Barnett is a good man who has been put through hell because of the repeated failures of the federal government and the courts. Washington’s failure to secure the Mexican border permitted trespassers to enter the United States and violate Barnett’s home and his property. He has repeatedly seen trespassers at his ranch destroy fences and gates, kill calves, tear up water pumps, steal trucks, and break into his home. Barnett said he has rounded up as many as 86 illegal aliens in one night, turning those he captures over to the Border Patrol. For his efforts, he’s seen the federal courts, paid for with his tax money, used in an attempt to harass and bankrupt him. This is ludicrous. America needs more people like Roger Barnett and fewer groups like MALDEF harassing them with frivolous lawsuits.


Roger Barnett — 25 Comments

  1. so is it fair to say that because those of mexican descent belong in mexico, then those of european descent belong in europe? Didn’t they bring a lovely batch of animal diseases with them to infect the natives of this continent(in all actuality, it was the european who lived with his animals and had such close contact to swine, bovine, feline and canine diseases that they overwhelmed the “savages” because they had never lived in such filthy conditions)? I guess it should stand to your reasoning that the anglo is truly the harbinger of death and disease in this country.

  2. Tenochtitlan:

    You are as fucking dumb as the rest of the spics that post shit on here. That article was about how spics like you and fucking lawyers just rape this fucking country raw! Why the fuck should an American any American by a fucking illegal anything! The only people who should pay a fucking dime are the assholes who represent these fucking worthless pieces of shit! The only reason this case gets heard is for, and sit down this might be hard for you to take. For money, no other reason at all, just money. These fucks don’t give a fuck about spics. In fact they most likely hate them more then I fucking do!!!! They feel if they make enough money then they don’t have to live around these fucking smelly, gibberish speaking fucks!! So have a nice day, but more importantly go fuck yourself!!!!!

    • And turn that mexican polka shit off!!!!!!! You don’t have to work tommorrow or any other day, but I have to. I have to pay taxes for your foodstamps, at least let me get one night sleep.

  3. There are several different issues here. One is the fact that the US allows the most ridiculous law suits to proceed to trial in so many different areas [people too stupid to know coffee is hot for example]. The ‘freedom’ to sue for whatever one happens to feel like also means that others can do the same to you. Obviously (although not legally) Barnett shouldn’t have to defend himself for violating their ‘civil rights’; if he had assaulted and hurt or killed any of them then that would be a criminal matter and probably would need to prove self-defense.

    Secondly, the language, lack of coherent thought and racial abuse by ‘American Citizen’ are a sterling example what gives the rest of Americans a terrible reputation with the rest the world. Grow up, be a part of improving things not part of the problem.

    • How on earth can my explanation of the California mess have not merit? That’s their tax code; it’s srtgnoly biased to drive down tax rates, and when taxes go down, the government has less money to do government stuff. Meanwhile, they pass a 3-strikes law that loads up their prisons with people who would not normally be there.And I don’t think I’m overlooking statistics; look at that Wikipedia page, you get dueling statistics, and they’re unclear, because they blend legal and illegal immigrants. One cites a 7.4% wage cut for workers without a high school education, they other says that immigrant workers (both kinds) RAISE wages for the rest of us by 4%. I am not sure what to make of this, except that those lacking a high school education , is a minority of all workers, and 7.4% is not chickenfeed, but it’s not 20% either.And what I conclude from this is, how the heck are you so sure that this is THE PROBLEM that must be solved? I don’t get it. Besides which, the rate at which we deport people is up since Obama was elected. This should increase your happiness, right?And by safety net, I mean things like unemployment, which we’ve got (could be better), and if we had it, universal health care. If people lose their jobs, especially because of economic shifts resulting from trade-related treaties, these are the sort of things we ought to do to ensure that nobody loses much (presumably, we would never sign a treaty that was a net loss for the country as a whole.) The Europeans are better at this than we are.And understand, I am happy to increase border security and severely ding employers who hire illegally. What I object to, is taking a kid who had no choice in whether to come here or not, who grew up here and soaked up our culture, and then, telling them that they should be punished for this.

  4. If Mr. Barnett had lived on Mexico’s southern border and illegal aliens were doing this, the Mexican police would encourage him to kill them or hold them indefinitely due to Mexico having one of the world’s harshest immigration policies. And yet these illegals in America have the right to sue Mr. Barnett for wanting them off his property. America gives them more rights than any other country on earth would, and how do they thank us?

  5. I guess the lesson learned here is: STAY OFF OF MR. BARNETT’S PROPERTY. Guess the illegals need to find a different way to the north, huh?

  6. Sensible and Tenochtitlan:

    European settlers broke no laws when they came here. Illegals who cross U.S. borders – any borders – today are breaking federal law. That’s the plain and simple difference, and you either won’t acknowledge it because you don’t care about the rule of law, or because you are yourselves racists who hate those of European descent.

    I am a legal immigrant in the U.S. The process is harder than it should be, but it is doable legally. There is simply no legitimization for breaking the law. If you want to contribute and solve, then work on simplifying our stupid laws – especially by removing the quotas we now have that FAVOR people from third-world countries and keep out Europeans and other first-worlders, including the highly skilled – instead of pushing for our laws to be broken or ignored.

    Then again, given that our current President, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and certainly others willfully ignore our laws, support or initiate the judicial fiat alteration of contracts, and commit other acts many people are beginning to realize constitute outright treason, you’re probably on safe ground with your positions. It remains to be seen whether this nation’s people wake up and put leaders in place who actually obey all our laws, and who will see to it that everyone else does too.

    As for Mr. Barnett, the second I find out if he has a legal defense fund, I will contribute to it. The people in question were TRESPASSING on his property – their citizenship doesn’t even matter – and MALDEF is so blatantly shameless and anti-American, they deserve this loss and many more.

    • Spencer, please don’t mqtsuoie me. Not clear-cut is not the same as no , and my point is that there is the possibility of increased economic activity resulting in a net benefit, in the same way that free trade among nations generally leads to a net overall economic benefit. There will always be a few losers, but the hand-wavy justification for why this is ok is that (1) more economic activity will generate other opportunities and (2) there is/should be enough of a social safety net (which the rest of us, benefitting from the improved economy, should be happy to fund) to help those who get the short end of the stick, whether from free trade or from free (undocumented, illegal) labor movement. That doesn’t change the fact that it is technically illegal (much like running a stop sign), but the point is that it is almost certainly zero sum, where they take, therefore we lose.Some of the other articles quoted/referenced from the wikipedia page, discuss their contributions to social security, and the possible benefits from economic activity overall. There’s costs. There’s benefits. It’s not clear to me how they net out overall. It’s also not clear to me that the people most likely to be directly affected low-skilled citizens competing with illegals for jobs ought to be the ones to shoulder the costs, even if there is a net win for the overall economy.California’s budget problems are mainly caused by their bizarro limits on raising taxes, and their subinflationary market-distorting property tax cap. Imagine if Prop 2.5 override required a 2/3 vote they would never pass. Imagine if state income tax increases (necessary to get the money to pick up the costs that localities can no longer cover) required a 2/3 vote in the legislature. And imagine if Prop 2.5, were really a combination of Prop 2.0 (increase limit) and Prop 1.0 (tax rate cap). THAT is California’s budget problem.

  7. There are 12 million illegal immigrants in the USA.

    People are complaining about how they take jobs, don’t pay taxes, break the law, and burden social services, but almost no one is doing anything about the problem. Some of the solutions that have been proposed so far are unconstitutional and illegal. Arizona has a law that allows the police to racial profile and stop people simply because they look like immigrants. This law is discriminatory and violates the Fourth Amendment prohibition against illegal search and seizure without probable cause. What does an illegal immigrant look like anyway? Another solution to stop illegal immigration is to deny the children of illegal immigrants citizenship and clearly violates the 14th Amendment that states that all persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens. What would make someone more American than being born here? Other solutions against illegal immigration that have been enacted by towns forbid illegals from renting homes, but violate the Fair Housing Act prohibition against discrimination.

    Since many of the suggestions to deal with illegal immigrants so far are illegal, I propose
    the following better solutions:

    1. Add immigration agents to patrol the border.

    2. Require all employers to use E-verify to verify that all employees are legal.

    3. Increase fines on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

    4. Do not allow illegal immigrants to have drivers’ licenses. Do not make the lives of
    illegals easier or reward them for breaking the law.

    5. Call the police if you see someone playing loud music, stealing, vandalizing property, drinking or urinating in public, doing drugs, littering, loitering, or illegally keeping chickens in the city. Regardless of whether the lawbreaker is or isn’t an illegal immigrant, the broken windows theory of crime says that small crimes lead to bigger crimes and less respect for the law. Why have a law if it is not enforced? Someone who violates the law by living in a country illegally is probably not going to care about obeying other laws. Any illegal immigrant who is arrested should be deported. If illegal immigrants are hassled enough maybe they will leave on their own or at least try to fit in a little more. I grew up in a small Midwestern town and I have seen the bad effects of illegal immigration myself.

    6. Build more illegal immigration detention centers and deport the illegal immigrants that are here. Maybe deporting millions of illegal immigrants is not practical, but we can deport more. If the USA can put on a man on the moon, why can’t we defend our borders?

    Of course reducing illegal immigration costs money so I suggest increasing sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco, reducing the wages of government workers, cutting welfare spending, and eliminating less important programs like Amtrack, PBS, and the National Endowment for the Arts. We should stop extending unemployment benefits, deport the illegal immigrants, reduce legal worker visa quotas, and require unemployed Americans to take jobs in farming, meatpacking plants, construction, landscaping, and hotels. If 15 million Americans are out of work, 12 million illegal immigrants shouldn’t be taking up the jobs.

    The United States is a nation of immigrants, but these are modern times with rules and regulations. Immigrants need to respect these rules. The USA does not have room for all the people in the world. Do you want America to have a population of 1 billion like China?

    We don’t need new laws, we just need to enforce the existing laws.

    Write your representatives, contact the media, and talk with your friends and family. Tell them that we have had enough of illegal immigrants. Nothing will change if nothing is done and the government won’t care if you don’t care.

    • “Arizona has a law that allows the police to racial profile and stop people simply because they look like immigrants. This law is discriminatory and violates the Fourth Amendment prohibition against illegal search and seizure without probable cause. ”

      There is nothing discriminatory about the Arizona Law. And it is not profiling. Foreign accent gives the authorities a probable cause to check legal status. Nothing wrong with that. I speak with noticeable russian accent; I wouldn’t have any problems to prove my legal status at any given moment, I would be happy to do so if ever asked.

      • If you speak spic there is about a 65% chance you are not supposed to be here. By all means, please officer do some profiling, fast.

      • Come now, take a deep breath. Opposing iallgel immigration does not automatically equate with hatred of iallgel immigrants. One can certainly take the position that our immigration laws should be strictly enforced, while recognizing that most (not all!) of these immigrants are personally decent people trying to help their families out.But they should not break our laws to do so. Simple as that. Unless you know the hearts and attitudes of all the anti-immigration (really anti-ILLEGAL immigration) folks, you owe them the courtesy of not assuming bad intentions.

    • Re: Immigration debate- I would remmnceod we focus on the misguided policy versus the individuals taking advantage of it. My world view is guided by the principle that people are largely motivated by self interest. So, it’s not a surprise to me people would like to come live in this country and take advantage of all it offers-i.e. safety, job opportunities, subsidized housing, food and yes healthcare. I am also as outraged as Jim is at the governor’s idea and its timing. Here are a couple realities our governor and elected officials should grasp: A bipartisan commission has just reported we need to reduce the growth of entitlements or face insolvency. Locally, we face additional job losses in public sector as we endeavor to balance the budget. Now is hardly time to provide additional entitlements to a constituency who it may be argued have not paid into the system.David, I appreciate your desire to see statistical evidence before you are swayed to the suggestion that illegal immigrants are receiving Section 8 and food stamps. I’d settle for an accurate number of the population of illegal residents. Is it 12 million or 20 million? In your desire to seek the truth through data analysis I might look at the population of residents who reside in this country under a grant of asylum and are collecting some form of aid. My gut tells me the President’s aunt is not the only noncitizen familiar with government handouts and the methods necessary for receiving them.We should start our immigration reform by instituting the following:1) Double/triple the fines on employers who flagrantly disregard current laws regarding hiring. I9 forms need to be properly filled out, reviewed annually and auditable. 2) Reinforce our borders.3) National ID cardDeportation should and will be the order of last resort once we have removed the main incentive to be here economic.

  8. OK, Roger may have bumped a treapasser with his boot, and may have had a big dog for extra protection, but so what. The jury award for tens of thousands of dollars is typical; outrageous, but typical in this super-wimpy society. I too will contribute to a legal defense fund to thwart this non-sense.
    John S. Allen
    CW4, USAR

  9. Let me get it straight… so the dude that held the immigrants have to PAY from HIS POCKET 77,000 dollars even if he was find INNOCENT? WTF?????? the dude is supposed to sue those retards for HIS attorney’s fees.

  10. Since Mexico is SOOOOO wonderful,
    (and saying anything otherwise is blatantly RACIST)

    Let’s adapt THEIR OWN wonderful way of handling
    Illega…uh…”Undocumented” workers!

    It’s WIN-WIN!!!!!!

  11. USA must join Russia and both destroy Mexico, it is the enemy of humankind. It seems USA fears Mexico, that is wahy I suggest the help of Russia. Is USA Army coward? Mexico lacks of strong Army.
    Iran Iraq and many others are stronger than Mexico. Why is USA gov so coward? are they inlove with Mexicans?

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