ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project Staff Travels to Arizona to Support Monitoring Efforts by ACLU of Arizona

April 16, 2005 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — The Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union today announced that it has sent two national staff members to Arizona to support the Legal Observer Project organized by the ACLU of Arizona.

Since April 1, armed private individuals under the so-called “Minuteman project” have come to Arizona for the purported purpose of spotting and reporting individuals who the Minutemen claim are violating federal immigration law. In fact, there have been growing reports and allegations of abuse of immigrants as a result of the Minutemen’s activities. Increasingly, it appears that private citizens near the Arizona border are engaging in illegal treatment of immigrants.

“Under the Constitution, every person regardless of immigration status is entitled to due process, and private vigilantes are not permitted to take the law into their own hands,” said Lucas Guttentag, Director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Right Project. “The Immigrants’ Rights Project will participate in the legal observer project to assess the situation in Arizona first-hand, to support the efforts of the ACLU of Arizona and to underscore that the rule of law applies equally to all.”

Eleanor Eisenberg, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona, added, “The Minuteman project has created a powder-keg situation with the potential to go beyond harassment and false imprisonment to real violence. We hope that our observer project will continue to shed light on the activities of the Minutemen and will ensure that private citizens do not detain, harass or humiliate others in violation of the law.”

The Legal Observer Project was conceived by Ray Ybarra, Ira Glasser Fellow at the ACLU of Arizona. More than 80 monitors have observed the Minutemen actions since the beginning of April and more are coming. “We believe that the monitoring has played a crucial role in preventing abuses and in documenting the activities of the Minutemen,” said Ybarra. He added: “The presence of ACLU national staff highlights that we will continue to monitor private individuals who want to take the law into their own hands as well as law enforcement agencies who have the responsibility to prevent illegal vigilante action.”

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