3 Democrats Support Suit Against Border Vigilantes
By Grant Smith
Arizona Capitol Times
Three Democratic House members endorsed a civil suit filed by Border Action Network and Donald MacKenzie against three Cochise County residents who the suit says are intimidating undocumented workers.
The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court on Dec. 10, names Roger and Barbara Barnett, who are husband and wife, and Ralph Barnett, who is Roger's brother. The suit says, "They wrongfully claim citizens arrest powers, and are generally armed and dressed in camouflaged attire when making arrests."
At a press conference Dec. 10 outside the House of Representatives, Rep. Ted Downing, D-Dist. 28, who is also on the Tucson Civil Rights Commission, said, "We firmly oppose vigilant acts of violence against local residents or migrants. The presence of armed civilians patrolling the Arizona border places innocent people at risk of serious injury and death, igniting an atmosphere of fear and intimidation."
Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Dist. 16, said the filing of the suit "follows a history of successful legal responses to curb the intimidation and fear by vigilantes."
Rep. Tom Prezelski, D-Dist. 29, was also at the press conference.
According to the suit, Mr. MacKenzie encountered about 30 men and women at a well on his ranch, which is east of Douglas, on Oct. 11.
When Mr. MacKenzie asked if any of them spoke English, he says Roger Barnett approached him and told him he had rounded them up because they were in the U.S. illegally.
Mr. MacKenzie says he concluded Roger Barnett and a man and woman who were with him were Border Patrol agents because of their camouflaged attire and caps that had a "U.S. Border Patrol" emblem. Mr. Mackenzie says the three were armed with pistols.
The suit says, "At some point during their conversation, Mr. MacKenzie discovered that the Barnetts were not federal agents, and he became frightened of them because they were armed and their manner and behavior revealed a willingness to use their weapons"
The suit asks for a preliminary injunction against the Barnetts "from continuing to impersonate federal officers and to detain and frighten undocumented persons."
It also seeks unspecified damages for Mr. MacKenzie. -