Saturday, February 14, 2009

Illegal alien trespassing in Southwest tests property rights, perhaps weapons laws; how does the Constitution protect illegal aliens?

The Washington Times, on Friday Jan. 13, ran a story by Jerry Seper about the nuances of the debate over the rights of illegal aliens. One of sixteen illegal aliens (Gerardo Gonzalez) is being allowed to sue an Arizona rancher Roger Barnett, along with some family members and the sheriff of Cochise County, AZ, for detaining Gonzalez at gun point after apprehending him trespassing and migrating through his ranch property . The story maintains that the plaintiff had been convicted of a drug offense in 1993 and deported. Cochise County in the southeast county of Arizona, bordering Arizona and New Mexico. The ranch, near Douglas, appears to be near the Mexican border. The linked story (here) has an AP photo of the defendant.

Ranchers are maintaining that they are defending valid property rights, and the case seems logically in argumentation related to the issues of homeowners in Washington DC who challenged DC’s gun law, for example. Ranchers also maintain that the capability of self-defense acts as a deterrent, where others say they are taking the law into their own hands, which used to be common practice in the West (look at the recent film “Appaloosa”).

The newspaper article says that the suit is brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, or MALDEF. The closest story that I could find on its website is “Arizona Supreme Court rejects appeal of vigilante rancher who attacked U.S. citizens on Arizona border” but that seems to refer to a different incident, link here, from Sept. 23, 2008, here. Another press release for this case will probably appear soon.

There will, of course, be questions about how the Constitution applies to people who do not have the legal right to be here.

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