Vicente v. Barnett
Several illegal aliens, represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDEF), brought this lawsuit against Roger and Barbara Barnett, husband and wife Arizona cattle farmers whose ranch is located near the Mexican border. The Barnetts had discovered and reported to the U.S. Border Patrol a large group of aliens trespassing on their land and illegally entering into the United States. The illegal aliens were arrested by Border Patrol and subsequently removed from the United States. The group sued the Barnetts as a result of their involvement for, among other things, conspiracy to deprive the illegal aliens of their right to interstate travel–a right restricted to citizens of the United States. IRLI served as counsel in defending the Barnetts.
In a major setback for the illegal alien advocacy network’s strategy of legal intimidation, a federal jury in Tucson rejected nearly all of the substantive claims brought by illegal alien advocacy group MALDEF against Arizona rancher Roger Barnett. Earlier, on February 10, federal district judge John M. Roll threw out related conspiracy complaints against his wife Barbara and his brother Donald Barnett, and dismissed the claims brought by ten illegal aliens who did not testify in court.
When dismissing the conspiracy claims, the court explained that illegal aliens have no constitutionally protected right to travel in the U.S. and that people, like the Barnetts, who live in close proximity to the border can make a reasonable assumption that large groups of people they encounter hiding or trespassing are doing so with the aid of smugglers, a federal felony for which a citizens arrest is authorized under Arizona law.
John Kaufmann, the lead trial attorney for Roger Barnett, systematically dismantled MALDEF’s core contention that the plaintiffs were detained because of their ethnicity. The jury became aware that the poor and uneducated plaintiffs were being used by the Mexican government in a crude attempt to discourage border enforcement efforts.
In rejecting the claim that the Barnetts violated the plaintiffs’ civil rights, the jury not only dismissed MALDEF’s cynical decision to play the race card, but also provided the family members the opportunity to seek full recovery of attorneys fees.
“Smuggling of illegal aliens is a felony. Citizens who live along the border, like citizens anywhere in the country, have a right to act in such instances,” stated David Hardy, a noted legal scholar and counsel for the Barnetts. “The vindication of the Barnetts should clear the way for other Americans to act responsibly without fear of specious and politically motivated lawsuits.”