Judge: Undocumented migrants can sue ranchers for assault after MALDEF victory; link to Tucson Tragedy

Today brings an important ruling, a victory for human rights in Arizona thanks to MALDEF!

First a quick background:

John. M. Roll, the federal judge killed Saturday in the Tucson shooting that critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), has been at the center of the state’s complicated political battle over immigration.

In February 2009, Roll received hundreds of threats after he allowed a lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against a rancher to go forward. “They cursed him out, threatened to kill his family, said they’d come and take care of him. They really wanted him dead,” a law enforcement official told The Washington Post in May 2009.

U.S. marshals put Roll, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, under 24-hour protection for about a month. They guarded his home in a secluded area just outside Tucson, screening his mail and escorting him to court, to the gym and even to Mass.

via Washington Post.

Judge Roll was also the judge that was to hear the Save Ethnic Studies case regarding the constitutionality of HB2281, but after his assassination at the during the Tucson Tragedy, the case was given to Ninth Circuit Judge Tashima.

The case written about in the Washington Post above has finally been decided.

Not even a 2011 Arizona law written just for him could help Roger Barnett. The Arizona rancher this week lost another court ruling in a years-long lawsuit over allegations he assaulted illegal immigrants caught on his land in 2004.

“We hope this will be the final chapter in Barnett’s attempts to avoid paying his victims the judgment that is long overdue,” David Hinojosa, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a news release.

MALDEF filed the lawsuit on behalf of the immigrants.

In March 2004, Barnett apprehended a group of illegal immigrants on his ranch and turned them over to law enforcement. The immigrants alleged that Barnett held them at gunpoint and kicked one of the women. Barnett, who has claimed he’s apprehended thousands of illegal immigrants crossing through his ranch, disputed the allegations.

Barnett was never criminally charged in the case. But MALDEF’s lawsuit garnered national attention and outraged many in the Legislature.

Lawmakers in 2006 passed a measure asking voters to change the state Constitution to forbid Arizona courts from awarding punitive damages to illegal immigrants. Proposition 102 passed with an approval rate of 74 percent.

But lawmakers realized later that the measure was too late to help Barnett because it wasn’t retroactive.

In 2009, a federal-court jury found that Barnett didn’t violate the civil rights of the illegal immigrants but ordered him to pay $77,000 to the victims for the claims of assault and causing emotional distress.

Barnett appealed, and last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the lower-court ruling. With interest, the amount came to about $87,000.

Read more at Arizona Republic.

Arizona owes MALDEF a big thank you for their help in fighting racism and xenophobia in the Tucson area!

MALDEF is the group that is behind the current federal desegregation order that TUSD is under, and they may have to flex their muscle and bring in the Ninth Circuit again if Judge Bury repeats his same mistakes by ignoring the damage being done to minority students in 61% Latino TUSD.