ACLU Dismayed at Governor Schwarzenegger's Endorsement of Armed Vigilantes on California's Border

April 29, 2005 12:00 am

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Statement of Lucas Guttentag, Director, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project

NEW YORK — The Immigrants’ Rights Project of the national American Civil Liberties Union is dismayed at the statements of Governor Schwarzenegger praising the activities of the “Minuteman” vigilantes at the Arizona border.

Encouraging private individuals to enforce federal immigration laws is an invitation to lawlessness and increases the danger of abuse and violence. During the Minutemen’s actions in Arizona, the Immigrants’ Rights Project participated in the legal observer program to monitor the vigilante actions. We saw firsthand that the presence of armed vigilantes at border towns and communities creates a climate of intimidation and fear among residents of border communities. As a result of the Minutemen’s presence, residents were afraid to send their children to school, to go shopping, and to engage in normal business activity.

In Arizona, there were also news reports and allegations of abuse of immigrants and others by private vigilantes. The activities of the Minutemen have emboldened other private citizens to take the law into their own hands. The combination of armed civilians and an anti-immigrant animus has led to incidents such as the one in which a private citizen threatened seven migrants at gunpoint in Arizona. Other armed militia groups have now indicated their intention to take up arms this summer in further vigilante actions in Arizona. Under the Constitution, every person regardless of immigration status is entitled to due process, and private vigilantes are not permitted to take the law into their own hands.

President Bush and the Border Patrol have criticized this group as an unwelcome interference with law enforcement that poses a danger to citizens and immigrants alike. Governor Schwarzenegger should not be welcoming them into the state.

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