- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. — Authorities yesterday said three protesters patrolling the border did not break any laws when they encountered an illegal alien they posed with for pictures and fed while waiting for Border Patrol agents to arrive.

“The county attorney’s office reviewed all available evidence, that indicates that there was no forcible detention, therefore the case is not substantiated, and no charges are pending,” said Carol Capos, a spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department.

The alien, identified only as a 26-year-old Mexican national, told deputies he had been held against his will by the “Minuteman Project” volunteers who videotaped him holding a T-shirt that said: “Bryan Barton caught me crossing the border and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”

Mr. Barton said they saw the alien, who called himself “Jose,” “wandering in the heat and bushes” along state Highway 92 about three miles north of the Arizona-Mexico border.

He said they approached him to see if he was all right and gave him “Wheaties, a granola bar, water” and $20 before calling the U.S. Border Patrol.

“He thanked us about a dozen times,” and didn’t complain until after he was in custody, said Mr. Barton, who calls himself a Republican congressional candidate from San Diego.

Mr. Barton provided the tape prosecutors used to review the incident. The tape also was reviewed by the sheriff’s department, Mexican Consul Miguel Escobar and the U.S. Border Patrol. The alien is in Border Patrol custody.

Minuteman organizer James T. Gilchrist yesterday said Mr. Barton was guilty of a “benevolent act by a naive member.” He said Mr. Barton resigned effective today. The other Minuteman volunteers were not identified.

Minuteman organizers, who called the monthlong border vigil to protest the Bush administration’s immigration enforcement policies, had set strict guidelines prohibiting participants from confronting aliens. They are only supposed to contact the Border Patrol when they observe illegals crossing the border.

Earlier yesterday, Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, who has been supportive of the group’s right to protest, said he did not “have the time nor the patience for anyone attempting to turn this situation into a three-ring circus.”

More than 200 illegal aliens have been picked up since the patrols began and the number of migrants crossing into the United States along a 20-mile section of border between Naco and Douglas has dropped significantly, both U.S. and Mexican officials have said off the record. The area has been a major corridor for illegal aliens.

But Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, said yesterday her office has been told by the Border Patrol and others that migrant traffic is surging in other areas, including the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation west of here, also a favored crossing point for illegals.

“And until you have operational control of the entire Arizona border, you cannot say that progress has been made. And we don’t have it, and the Minutemen can’t give it to us,” she said.

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