Border Vigilante Arrested for Illegally Detaining Immigrant

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
October 24, 2005 12:00 am

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ACLU says Incident Confirms its Suspicions About Minutemen

HACHITA, NM – Today the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico expressed concern over reports that a member of the Minuteman vigilante group illegally detained two migrants near the Mexican border last week.

The ACLU said it has learned through discussions with the Border Patrol that a Minuteman volunteer from Colorado was arrested after he was found with two migrants in his car. According to the Border Patrol, the volunteer came across the migrants after they flagged him down for food and water while he was driving in Hidalgo County. The ACLU noted that the volunteer’s actions contradict the Minutemen’s standard operating procedure, which states, “Minutemen do not verbally contact, physically gesture to or have any form of communications with suspected Illegal Aliens.”

“If the report is corroborated, it would confirm our suspicions that the Minutemen are, at best, not well-supervised and, at worst, inclined to take the law into their own hands, including unlawfully detaining people who they think are undocumented immigrants,” said Ray Ybarra, Racial Justice Fellow for the ACLU of Texas, who has been monitoring the activities of the New Mexico Minutemen.

“We don’t yet have complete information on the arrest,” he said. “What we do know is that this individual was taken into custody, but that the charges were eventually dropped.””

In contrast, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Tucson is prosecuting Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss for transporting three migrants to a hospital on July 9, 2005 after discovering them suffering from symptoms of severe dehydration. Sellz and Strauss are volunteers for No More Deaths, a humanitarian aid organization.

Ybarra questioned why Sellz and Strauss, who were acting as good Samaritans, would be more aggressively prosecuted than the Minutemen. “Letting the Minutemen violate the law without accountability sends the signal that vigilante activity is welcome in New Mexico. This can lead to a very dangerous situation for migrants and New Mexican residents alike,” he said.

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