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Crafty_Dog:
Today's NY Slimes:
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Today's NY Slimes:



For years, Roger Barnett has holstered a pistol to his hip, tucked an assault rifle in his truck and set out over the scrub brush on his thousands of acres of ranchland near the Mexican border in southeastern Arizona to hunt.

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The New York Times

Hunt illegal immigrants, that is, often chronicled in the news.

?They?re flooding across, invading the place,? Mr. Barnett told the ABC program ?Nightline? this spring. ?They?re going to bring their families, their wives, and they?re going to bring their kids. We don?t need them.?

But now, after boasting of having captured 12,000 illegal crossers on land he owns or leases from the state and emerging as one of the earliest and most prominent of the self-appointed border watchers, Mr. Barnett finds himself the prey.

Immigrant rights groups have filed lawsuits, accusing him of harassing and unlawfully imprisoning people he has confronted on his ranch near Douglas. One suit pending in federal court accuses him, his wife and his brother of pointing guns at 16 illegal immigrants they intercepted, threatening them with dogs and kicking one woman in the group.

Another suit, accusing Mr. Barnett of threatening two Mexican-American hunters and three young children with an assault rifle and insulting them with racial epithets, ended Wednesday night in Bisbee with a jury awarding the hunters $98,750 in damages.

The court actions are the latest example of attempts by immigrant rights groups to curb armed border-monitoring groups by going after their money, if not their guns. They have won civil judgments in Texas, and this year two illegal Salvadoran immigrants who had been held against their will took possession of a 70-acre ranch in southern Arizona after winning a case last year.

The Salvadorans had accused the property owner, Casey Nethercott, a former leader of the Ranch Rescue group, of menacing them with a gun in 2003. Mr. Nethercott was convicted of illegal gun possession; the Salvadorans plan to sell the property, their lawyer has said.

But Mr. Barnett, known for dressing in military garb and caps with insignia resembling the United States Border Patrol?s, represents a special prize to the immigrant rights groups. He is ubiquitous on Web sites, mailings and brochures put out by groups monitoring the Mexican border and, with family members, was an inspiration for efforts like the Minutemen civilian border patrols.

?The Barnetts, probably more than any people in this country, are responsible for the vigilante movement as it now exists,? said Mark Potok, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks the groups. ?They were the recipients of so much press coverage and they kept boasting, and it was out of those boasts that the modern vigilante movement sprang up.?

Jesus Romo Vejar, the lawyer for the hunting party, said their court victory Wednesday would serve notice that mistreating immigrants would not pass unpunished. Although the hunters were not in the United States illegally, they contended that Mr. Barnett?s treatment of them reflected his attitude and practices toward Latinos crossing his land, no matter what their legal status.

?We have really, truly breached their defense,? Mr. Vejar said, ?and this opens up the Barnetts to other attorneys to come in and sue him whenever he does some wrong with people.?

Mr. Vejar said he would ask the state attorney general and the county attorney, who had cited a lack of evidence in declining to prosecute Mr. Barnett, to take another look at the case. He also said he would ask the state to revoke Mr. Barnett?s leases on its land.

Mr. Barnett had denied threatening anyone. He left the courtroom after the verdict without commenting, and his lawyer, John Kelliher, would not comment either.

In a brief interview during a court break last week, Mr. Barnett denied harming anyone and said that the legal action would not deter his efforts. He said that the number of illegal immigrants crossing his land had declined recently but that he thought it was only a temporary trend.

?For your children, for our future, that?s why we need to stop them,? Mr. Barnett said. ?If we don?t step in for your children, I don?t know who is expected to step in.?

Mr. Barnett prevailed in a suit in the summer when a jury ruled against a fellow rancher who had sued, accusing him of trespassing on his property as he pursued immigrants. Another suit last year was dropped when the plaintiff, who had returned to Mexico, decided not to return to press the case.



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Still, the threat of liability has discouraged ranchers from allowing the more militant civilian patrol groups on their land, and accusations of abuse seem to be on the wane, said Jennifer Allen of the Border Action Network, an immigrant rights group.

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Michael Mally for The New York Times
Ronald Morales, right, his daughter Angelique Venese and others won a civil suit against Roger Barnett. They said he detained them illegally then pointed a rifle at them after running them off.

 
Jeffry Scott/Arizona Daily Star
Roger Barnett owns or leases 22,000 acres near the border.

But David H. Urias, a lawyer with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund who is representing the 16 immigrants suing Mr. Barnett, said fewer complaints did not necessarily mean less activity. Immigrants from Mexico are returned to their country often within hours and often under the impression that their deportation ? and chance to try to return again ? will go quicker without their complaints.

?It took us months to find these 16 people,? Mr. Urias said.

People who tend ranches on the border said that even if they did not agree with Mr. Barnett?s tactics they sympathized with his rationale, and that putting him out of business would not resolve the problems they believe the crossers cause.

?The illegals think they have carte blanche on his ranch,? said Al Garza, the executive director of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps in Arizona, a civilian patrol group that, Mr. Garza says, does not detain illegal immigrants but calls in their movements to the Border Patrol. ?The man has had it.?

Mr. Barnett, a retired Cochise County sheriff?s deputy and the owner of a towing business, acquired his ranch in the mid-1990s, buying or leasing from the state more than 22,000 acres.

Almost from the start he took up a campaign against the people crossing the border from Mexico, sometimes detaining large groups and radioing for the Border Patrol to pick them up.

Chuy Rodriguez, a spokesman for the agency?s Tucson office, said the Border Patrol maintained no formal relationship with Mr. Barnett or other civilian groups. Agency commanders, concerned about potential altercations, have warned the groups not to take the law into their hands.

?If they see something, we ask them to call us, like we would ask of any citizen,? Mr. Rodriguez said.

Mr. Barnett?s lawyers have suggested he has acted out of a right to protect his property.

?A lease holder doesn?t have the right to protect his cattle?? Mr. Kelliher asked one of the men in the hunting party, Arturo Morales, at the trial.

?I guess so, maybe,? Mr. Morales replied.

Mr. Barnett has had several encounters with local law enforcement officials over detaining illegal immigrants, some of whom complained that he pointed guns at them. The local authorities have declined to prosecute him, citing a lack of evidence or ambiguity about whether he had violated any laws.

A few years ago, however, the Border Action Network and its allied groups began collecting testimony from illegal immigrants and others who had had confrontations with Mr. Barnett.

They included the hunters, who sued Mr. Barnett for unlawful detention, emotional distress and other claims, and sought at least $200,000. Ronald Morales; his father, Arturo; Ronald Morales?s two daughters, ages 9 and 11; and an 11-year-old friend said Mr. Barnett, his brother Donald and his wife, Barbara, confronted them Oct. 30, 2004.

Ronald Morales testified that Mr. Barnett used expletives and ethnically derogatory remarks as he sought to kick them off state-owned property he leases. Then, Mr. Morales said, Mr. Barnett pulled an AR-15 assault rifle from his truck and pointed it at them as they drove off, traumatizing the girls.

Mr. Kelliher conceded that there was a heated confrontation. But he denied that Mr. Barnett used slurs and said Ronald Morales was as much an instigator. He said Morales family members had previously trespassed on Mr. Barnett?s land and knew that Mr. Barnett required written permission to hunt there.

Even as the trial proceeded, the Border Patrol reported a 45 percent drop in arrests in the Douglas area in the last year. The agency credits scores of new agents, the National Guard deployment there this summer and improved technology in detecting crossers.

But Ms. Allen of the Border Action Network and other immigrant rights supporters suspect that people are simply crossing elsewhere.

Crafty_Dog:
National Guard Commander in Arizona to Testify About Border Confrontation
Monday, January 29, 2007

 E-MAIL STORY RESPOND TO EDITOR PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
PHOENIX —  "Stop Stonewalling."

That's the warning from Arizona lawmakers hoping to find out what really happened earlier this month when four Tennessee National Guardsmen reportedly retreated when confronted by armed illegal immigrants along the border south of Tucson.

So far, Guard and U.S. Border Patrol officials have refused to disclose exactly what happened Jan. 3 when gunmen assaulted a Guard lookout post near Sasabe, Ariz. They declined requests from FOX News for copies of incident reports and transcripts of interviews with the men involved.

"Unfortunately, we do not have a report to provide," said Michael Friel, the Border Patrol's chief spokesman in Washington.

Watch FOX News Channel today for live reports on this story by William LaJeunesse

On Monday, Maj. Gen. David Rataczak will appear before the Arizona House Homeland Security Committee to testify about the encounter.

(Story continues below)

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Run-in at the Border "What are they here for if they are going to retreat from people with automatic weapons?" asked Committee Chairman Warde Nichols, who said the incident may send the message that the National Guard will retreat if faced with armed individuals. "It is not in the best interest of Arizona or U.S. border security," he added.

Rep. Steve Gallardo, a Democrat on the committee, said he believed immigration hard-liners would use Rataczak's appearance to push their agenda.

"They are going to try and embarrass him. They are going to fail," Gallardo said.

The incident happened at night, about a quarter mile north of the U.S. border with Mexico. A spokesman for the Arizona National Guard said an undetermined number of armed men approached an E.I.T., or Entry Identification Team, from Tennessee. Dozens of these mobile lookout posts are set up along the border, several are near Sasabe, a popular drug corridor. An E.I.T. is typically manned by four Guard soldiers equipped with radios, night vision and other surveillance gear.

Under existing rules of force signed by the Department of Defense and border state governors, soldiers are not supposed to stop, arrest, or shoot armed illegal immigrants. They are instructed only to look, listen and report their location to the Border Patrol.

"We don't apprehend," said Maj. Paul Aguirre, a spokesman for the Arizona National Guard. "We don't detain. We don't transport."

For that reason, critics say, it is inaccurate to say the National Guard is protecting the border.

While Guard spokesman Paul Aguirre called the encounter a "non-incident," U.S. Border Patrol sources in Tucson familiar with the investigation say something entirely different. They describe a tense, armed confrontation, with both sides lifting their assault rifles to shoulder height.

The sources say 12 men assaulted the Guard position, dressed in black tactical vests and khaki military style fatigues. The unit split into two groups as it approached, with eight men in front and two men flanking the Guardsmen on each side. One of the gunmen came within 35 feet of the observation site, according to investigators' summaries. Surrounded, outmanned and outgunned, the four Guardsmen made a "tactical retreat" to their Humvee and called the Border Patrol, the sources said.

The Border Patrol tracked the armed men back to the border but could not locate them. No shots were fired.

Guard spokesman Aguirre objected to characterizations of the withdrawal as a retreat, saying the soldiers did not run from their post and were not overrun.

The troops monitored the situation, never lost contact with the gunmen and moved to another site to avoid an engagement, Aguirre said.

Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, National Guard officials and some state lawmakers defended the decision to call in the Border Patrol. The governor's office has said the rules allow Guard members to use force when they believe they face an imminent threat and all other means are exhausted.

"I don't think that it's up to the committee to negotiate the rules of engagement," Napolitano said. "Those rules of engagement were negotiated with the National Guard at the federal level."

Border agents interviewed over the weekend believe the group was military trained, and were likely ex-Mexican special forces working for the drug cartels or a rival cartel 'rip-off' squad that steals drug shipments once they've crossed the border.

Initial reports suggested the Guardsmen were unarmed. However, Border Patrol spokesman Gustavo Soto said the teams "had rifles and ammunition from Day One."

That is true for the E.I.T. teams, but local agents say most Guardsmen involved with Operation Jump Start — those resurfacing roads and building fences — are not armed because officials "don't want an incident."

"The stories we've gotten from the National Guard, quite frankly, have changed," said lawmaker Nichols. "What happened that day? Is this isolated incident? Does it happen often armed men come across border in Kevlar vests moving in tactical formation and come within 30 feet of a National Guard post? We need to know."

The four Tennessee Guardsmen involved in the "tactical retreat," or redeployment, will be honored in Tucson Monday in a closed ceremony. An Arizona Guard spokeswoman refused to identify the medal or ribbon or commendation being given out, and said the press was not invited.

The troops were among the 6,400 National Guard members sent to the four southern border states to support immigration agents, and leave the agents with more time to catch illegal immigrants.

The support duties include monitoring border points, assisting with cargo inspection and operating surveillance cameras.

FOX News' William LaJeunesse and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,248124,00.html

Crafty_Dog:
U.S. Border Patrol: Illegal Immigrant Border Arrests Drop
Updated: January 3rd, 2007 09:46 AM EDT

There has been a big drop in arrests along the border in the last few months, NBC 7/39 reported Wednesday.  The U.S. Border Patrol said arrests of illegal immigrants dropped by more than a third since National Guard troops have been helping.  From July through November, 150,000 fewer people were arrested, a 4 percent decline from the same period last year. A migration expert said the biggest reason for the decrease immigrants' fear of being confronted by U.S. soldiers while trying to cross.

Crafty_Dog:
Mexico: Violence Crossing the Line in Acapulco
Two Canadian tourists suffered minor injuries Feb. 4 when they were struck by stray bullets in an apparent drive-by shooting in Acapulco, Mexico. It was the second violent incident involving Canadian tourists in Acapulco in less than a month, though this time the incident occurred at a hotel. Violence, much of it related to drug wars, has been escalating in the Pacific coastal resort for some time -- and is now beginning to spread to the tourist sector.

The shooting occurred on the ground-level veranda of the Casa Inn Hotel on the main street in the city's tourist district, about half a block from the beach. The Casa Inn is a modest hotel that is popular with older tourists on a budget and college students on spring break. According to reports, the gunman appeared not to be shooting at the tourists, but rather was targeting another man who was walking in front of the hotel. Nonetheless, the incident further demonstrates that the city's growing lawlessness now directly affects foreign tourists. On Jan. 8, a Canadian teenager died after being involved in an incident outside an Acapulco nightclub. Local officials said the boy died in an auto accident, though another official alleged that he was struck by a car while fleeing the club's bouncers and local taxi drivers, who were beating him.

Aside from its popularity among Canadians and other foreign tourists, Acapulco is an entry point for drugs coming from Colombia for shipment to the United States. Because of its geographical importance, Mexico's rival drug cartels are vying for control of Acapulco, which caused violence to spike in 2006. The increase in violence, which has included several gruesome beheadings, forced Mexican President Felipe Calderon to deploy nearly 8,000 federal troops to Guerrero state in January. Although his efforts could have some initial success, they have little chance of stabilizing the situation over the long term, and could even incite more violence as the cartels test his resolve or try to defend their operations against federal troops. This happened in 2005 when then-President Vicente Fox sent a much smaller contingent of 200 troops to the city as part of a nationwide crackdown.

Although it is unclear whether this latest shooting was connected to Acapulco's drug-related violence, it does indicate that criminals no longer consider the once-peaceful tourist zone off limits -- and that the danger level is rising. Moreover, local police, who normally would react forcefully to incidents that can affect tourist revenue, appear quite unable to prevent the violence. As a result, some Canadians are pressuring Ottawa to update its standing travel advisory regarding Mexico, and slumping sales have caused a number of Canadian travel agencies to reduce or cancel package tours to Acapulco.

Acapulco's warring drug cartels -- whose concern is securing the flow of drugs into Mexico for transshipment to U.S. markets -- have little reason to avoid inflicting collateral damage on the city's tourist industry. With the winter tourist season in high gear and spring break crowds soon descending on the beach hotels, Acapulco's already weak law enforcement will have its hands full -- and cannot be counted on to keep the turf wars out of the tourist district.

stratfor.com

Crafty_Dog:
By NATALIA PARRA, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 30 minutes ago
 


ACAPULCO, Mexico - More than a dozen armed assailants staged and videotaped simultaneous attacks on two offices of the state attorney general Tuesday in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, killing at least seven people.

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The attacks took place before 11 a.m. in two neighborhoods about nine miles north of the tourist zone, said Enrique Gil Mercado, special prosecutor for the attorney general's office in the state of Guerrero, which includes Acapulco.

Four of the victims, including three agents and a secretary, were killed at an office in the Emiliano Zapata neighborhood, while three, including two agents and a secretary, were killed in the Ciudad del Renacimiento neighborhood, Gil said.

About eight men armed with assault weapons participated in each attack. Gil said he did not immediately know how many people were wounded. He said all the attackers escaped, including one who fled on foot. Authorities initially said city police stations had been attacked, but later revised the information.

Acapulco government official Felipe Kuri Sanchez said the attackers, dressed in military uniforms, entered the offices and that one of them asked, "Are you the only ones here?"

When the officials responded in the affirmative, some of the assailants opened fire while at least one videotaped the shootings in each office, Kuri said.

Following the attacks, other offices were evacuated as a precaution, Formato 21 radio reported.

Police did not comment on the possible motive for the attacks.

Acapulco has suffered a wave of killings as rival drug cartels fight over coastal smuggling routes and control over a burgeoning local drug market.

Last year, the heads of at least six police officers and alleged drug smugglers were found in the resort and nearby towns.

President Felipe Calderon, who took power in December, has sent more than 24,000 federal police and soldiers to regions ravaged by drug violence. More than 7,000 troops arrived in the Acapulco region last month.

Tourists have not been immune from the violence.

On Saturday, two Canadians suffered minor injuries after being grazed by bullets fired at the city's Casa Inn Hotel. The two were treated at a hospital and released. Police have not made any arrests in that case.

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