Bryan Barton / AFP - Getty Images
TUCSON, Ariz. - Authorities determined Thursday that three volunteers involved in a civilian project to watch the border and report illegal crossers had an illegal immigrant pose for a flippant photograph but did not hold him against his will.
The Mexican man had told sheriff’s deputies he was detained and forced to pose for a picture holding a T-shirt with a mocking slogan. A review of a 15-minute videotape provided by Bryan Barton, one of the three volunteers, showed the T-shirt the man was holding read: “Bryan Barton caught an illegal alien and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” Barton was wearing an identical shirt.
“The county attorney’s office reviewed all available evidence, that indicates that there was no forcible detention, therefore the case is not substantiated, and no charges are pending,” said Carol Capas, a spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department.
The sheriff’s department, Mexican Consul Miguel Escobar and the U.S. Border Patrol also agreed the 26-year-old man was not detained, said Capas and Border Patrol spokeswoman Andrea Zortman.
The man, who was not identified, apparently did not initially tell a Border Patrol agent he had been detained, but did so when interviewed later by sheriff’s deputies, Capas said. The man alleged when he tried to get away, the volunteers ran in front of him and would not let him go by.
The volunteers involved in Wednesday’s incident identified themselves as members of the Minuteman Project — a monthlong effort that has people from around the country spread out along a stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border to report undocumented migrants and smugglers.
Law enforcement fears
Law enforcement officials have said they fear the project will lead to vigilante violence. Mexico’s foreign relations department also pledged in the days leading up to the civilian operation to pursue all legal and diplomatic means to stop the volunteers and ensure they do not violate the rights of Mexican citizens.
The volunteers may alert authorities when they see someone cross the border, but are not allowed to detain anyone. The immigrant who complained he was held illegally was later picked up by the Border Patrol, and remains in custody.
Wednesday’s incident was the first reporting any possible detention, though volunteers earlier assisted an immigrant in distress.
“The Minuteman project has created a powder-keg situation with the potential to go beyond harassment and false imprisonment to real violence,” said Eleanor Eisenberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which has legal observers keeping an eye on Minuteman volunteers.
Comment: While I have been involved in the immigration issue for several years myself--I used to work in a bilingual church office and would help legals (and some illegals) find housing, food, jobs, etc--and while this definitely opened my eyes to the plight that many Mexican citizens face in Mexico (hence their coming here), I can appreciate (though I probably shouldn't) this guy's dark joke. What we're doing here in the States regarding immigration policy with Mexico is deplorable; it's draining us, and it's not doing honest immigrants any favors.
Like I said, I'm for immigration, but done properly--Properly being comprised of two parts:
- Tighter borders to keep out illegals--which apparently isn't (and won't) happen to an effective degree, hence the justification for civilian groups like this one to (for now, harmlessly) draw attention to it like this. Then (to continue in my dream world) once borders become heavily guarded and it becomes very difficult (at best) to come over illegally, we need to move to step two:
- Easier, more efficient processes for admitting, registering and naturalizing legal immigrants. The complaint that they're draining the economy? Solved, as we tax their (normalized) wages, which contributes to the economy. The fact that they're stealing "our" jobs? Solved, as now there's a lot more to lose for companies to hire naturalized citizens at pennies a day...not the case when you hire a bunch of illegals who can and want to stay below Uncle Sam's radar. Now one person=one person; an immigrant fills only one position instead of a nameless mass taking over positions citizens would normally fill.
Fair? Nope. And with no real promise of change from the status quo on the horizon, it's come to groups like Bryan Barton and the Minuteman Project to try and police something civilians shouldn't ever have to mess with in the first place.