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Vigilantes vs. Immigrants

May 27, 2000|CORY FISHER

In recent weeks, two Arizona brothers who own a ranch along the Mexico-U.S. border have detained groups of immigrants who they found crossing through their property.

Ranchers Donald and Roger Barnett claim the immigrants have damaged fences and water lines and left piles of garbage behind. Frustrated by an insufficient number of Border Patrol agents patrolling their area just north of Douglas, the Barnetts--at least one of whom has worn a holstered gun during these incidents--have detained migrants both on their ranch and on a nearby public highway.

The events have raised charges of vigilantism from a Tucson-based human rights advocacy group. Douglas is considered to be the most popular area in the United States for illegal crossings, according to the Mexican consulate in Douglas. CORY FISHER spoke with Los Angeles teens about whether the ranchers' actions were appropriate.



16, junior, Palisades High School

So many immigrants are coming across the border every day, it's frustrating. And these people aren't even citizens. They don't have the rights that taxpayers do, who pay for services in the U.S.

This is an attack on private property. It's the same as someone coming into your house.

If they're on private property, the ranchers have every right to detain them. If the government isn't doing its job, it should pay to put up a wall around the ranchers' property. Or add more border patrol agents.

This is a federal problem, not the ranchers' problem. Detaining the illegal immigrants is a good idea. I think the Border Patrol should thank them for doing what is supposed to be its job.

Immigrants need to realize that if they are going to break the law, they should be willing to endure the consequences of going to jail or being sent back. It's alarming to know that the Border Patrol doesn't have a handle on this.



18, senior, Garfield High School

If I owned a ranch, I would give these families water and help them. People cross because of a need. My family did the same thing. I was born here. But my parents had to walk across a big mountain so they could cross into California and they felt scared. It was late at night.

My parents came here because there was a problem with money in Mexico. My dad came first, then he started making money, then he brought my mom and my brothers. I would have a really bad life if I was raised in Mexico. I would probably be working outside in the fields, hard physical labor.

I want to study electronics or become an architect. The ranchers need to understand that these people are only coming here for better benefits, and to support their families. The ranchers don't have the right to hold people like that. I think it's mean to call the Border Patrol on these people. They will just try to come back again.



17, junior, Palisades High School

It's a sensitive issue. But if the ranchers are going to take matters into their own hands, then what's the point of having a law? The ranchers say they won't harm the immigrants, yet they're carrying guns. What does that say?

This issue has the potential for people to pick sides and not consider the fact that there may be a middle path. The immigrants just want to pursue the American dream; they're not necessarily here to harm people. I'm Mexican American, so I understand. My grandfather came here as a migrant farm worker.

These people are escaping poverty and corruption, and they're not just coming from Mexico.

We have laws, so let's use them. Otherwise, the treatment of these immigrants--and the racial tension--could get worse.



17, senior, Palisades High School

The ranches are more than 20,000 acres; it sounds as though the ranchers were out hunting for these immigrants, with guns and binoculars. I can't imagine that the trash would be that much of a problem. It's not like the ranchers' children can't play in the yard. This is way out on the edge of the ranch.

And even though the immigrants didn't report mistreatment, we don't really know that for sure. The immigrants might be too afraid to say anything.

If I were a rancher, I would go to Washington and lobby for more agents along the border. The ranchers could organize, like the janitors did here. In the 1950s and 1960s you never would have seen Latino janitors out on the street like that. Today, if you organize, you will be heard.

I think the ranchers are blowing this out of proportion. They have so much land, what are they crying about?



14, freshman at Inglewood High School

I can see both sides of the issue. Both my parents came here as immigrants. My mom is from El Salvador and my dad is from Mexico. My mom says if she could help the people trying to cross the border, she would. She knows how hard it is to get here, and how hard they had to work to get here. It makes me sad to hear about what they had to go through. I leave the room when my dad starts telling stories about crossing the border because it makes me feel bad.

If you think of illegal immigration as a whole it sounds wrong. But if you consider what each person sacrificed to come here, you get a different perspective.

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