Saturday, August 20, 2005

Blow against border vigilantes

Recent years have seen the growth of vigilante groups patrolling the southern border of the US. Angered by what they see as lax enforcement by US border authorities, groups like Ranch Rescue and the Minuteman Project, send members to border areas to "patrol" the border and discourage border crossers.

One US court has sent a message that such vigilantes can't treat illegal immigrants as lacking human dignity. In 2003, two Salvadorans, Fatima Leiva and Edwin Mancia, crossed the border illegally. There they ran into Casey Nethercott, of Ranch Rescue, who illegally detained and assaulted them. Fueled by hate Nethercott allegedly pistol whipped one of the Salvadorans. He was criminally prosecuted and convicted of felony possession of a firearm.

Assisted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the two immigrants filed a civil law suit for damages. After the defendants defaulted, the Salvadorans were given the defendants' ranch in satisfaction of the judgment. They will probably sell the ranch and hope to obtain visas to stay in the country legally.

This story of a single confrontation is but one example of the growing tensions over illegal immigration as Salvadorans, Mexicans and others from Central America continue to try to make their way to "el Norte." Boz has a good blog post here which notes recent development in the debate over illegal immigration into the US, including "states of emergency" being declared by the governors of New Mexico and Arizona.

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