- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2009

A federal jury in Tucson, Ariz., ruled Tuesday that Arizona rancher Roger Barnett did not violate the civil rights of 16 illegal aliens from Mexico he stopped while they were trespassing on his property in March 2004. The bad news: That federal jury inexplicably awarded them $78,000 in actual and punitive damages on claims of assault and the infliction of “emotional distress.” Although the award is a tiny fraction (less than one-quarter of one percent) of the $32 million sought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), it is disgraceful that the jury awarded anything to the plaintiffs. Barnett’s only “offense” was holding the 16 intruders at gunpoint when he encountered them on his land in a location that has become a major corridor for armed drug and immigrant smugglers. He telephoned the Border Patrol and held the trespassers at gunpoint while waiting for law enforcement to arrive. Barnett does not speak Spanish, and the illegals were upset by the fact that he yelled at them and his dog barked at them. Really.

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.

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