April 7, 2005

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@aclu.org

DOUGLAS, AZ -- The American Civil Liberties Union today condemned the actions of volunteers with a controversial citizen border patrol program known as the "Minuteman Project" for reportedly holding an individual against his will and photographing him holding a t-shirt with a mocking slogan.

"Private citizens cannot detain individuals merely on suspicion that they may have crossed the border without permission from immigration officers," said ACLU of Arizona Executive Director Eleanor Eisenberg. "Nor does any law permit private citizens to detain, harass, and humiliate another individual. Allowing such activity to go unpunished sends a message to the entire country that individuals are free to take the law into their own hands. In a nation of laws, this is intolerable."

Despite claims on the Minuteman Project website that volunteers would only spot and report individuals they suspected were violating a federal law, the unlawful imprisonment occurred during the first few days of the month-long project. The ACLU is providing legal observers throughout April at the site of the Minuteman Project at the Arizona-Mexico Border.

As reported today by The Associated Press, Border Patrol agents called in deputies from the Cochise County Sheriff's office on Wednesday afternoon to report that an immigrant was detained by three men who identified themselves as Minuteman volunteers. The men physically restrained a 26-year-old Mexican man and forced him to hold a shirt while his picture was taken and he was videotaped. The shirt read: "Bryan Barton caught an illegal alien and all I got was this T-shirt."

"The Minuteman project has created a powder-keg situation with the potential to go beyond harassment and false imprisonment to real violence," Eisenberg said. "As we have said, the Minutemen have a right to engage in constitutionally protected First Amendment activity. However, they do not have a right to violate the civil liberties of others. We call on the Cochise County Sheriff's Department to thoroughly investigate this incident."

 

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