Note: These cases have brought up serious issues of self defense and
property rights and compensation for those engaging in illegal
HB 2191 Senate engrossed House bill
Ariz. amendment clears ranchers from illegal immigrant suit
Posted: Apr 19, 2011 8:28 PM
Updated: Apr 20, 2011 11:51 AM
New Ariz. law prevents illegal immigrants from suing for money
Gov. Brewer signed an amendment making a law passed in 2006
retroactive to 2004
That amendment clears 2 ranchers of having to pay damages to illegal
immigrants after detaining them in 2004
Roger Barnett was ordered to pay immigrants $70,000 for detaining
them after he caught them on his ranch
Casey Nethercott lost his ranch and still owed $450,000
Jennifer Allen of the Border Action Network says the law sets a bad
ALSO ON KGUN9.COM
9 On Your Side Border Watch
Feb. 2009: Barnett trial goes to jury
Reporter: Joel Waldman
Web Producer: Layla Tang
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Two Arizona ranchers found guilty of abusing
illegal immigrants may now be off the hook, thanks to a new law
signed Tuesday by Governor Jan Brewer.
Roger Barnett and Casey Nethercott were ordered to pay hefty fines
for what they did in 2004. And in Nethercott's case, it cost him his
ranch near Douglas.
In 2006, Arizona voters passed a constitutional amendment to prevent
anyone in the country illegally from collecting punitive damages in a
legal case, no matter what happens to them. Just weeks ago, lawmakers
passed a bill to make that amendment retroactive to January 1, 2004.
The penalties were also nullified.
Barnett insists he did the right thing back in 2004. when he
encountered a group of 16 illegal immigrants on his sprawling Cochise
"They're trespassing," he said. "Like, are they going to come in
your house? Or, what are you going to do when they walk through your
house? Or, through your backyard? I just have a bigger back yard
than you do."
Barnett said he was just protecting his own back yard when he held
the immigrants against their will on his ranch. But, some of those
illegal immigrants sued him and won. And, after a trial in 2009,
Barnett was ordered to pay more than $70,000. The jury said Barnett
acted illegally, but he disagrees.
"I wasn't unlawfully detaining anyone. I just had them sit there.
They were on my property, and I called Border Patrol and the Border
Patrol come and got them, like I always did," explained Barnett.
Two years after Barnett's case, Arizona voters passed a
constitutional amendment preventing anyone in the U.S. illegally from
collecting on a lawsuit. And, on Monday, Governor Jan Brewer signed a
law making that amendment retroactive to 2004; the same year Barnett
got in trouble, meaning he's now cleared of having to pay the
settlement. However, Jennifer Allen of the Border Action Network
said the new law sends the wrong message to Arizonans.
"Vigilante activities need to be condemned, they need to be
prosecuted. And, they need to be stopped in Arizona. This law gives
a green light to vigilante groups to move forward with impunity,"
The Border Action Network Director says Barnett and another Texas
rancher, Casey Nethercott, are vigilantes.
Nethercott also had a suit filed against him in 2004. In that case,
The Southern Poverty Law Center said Nethercott pistol whipped two
illegal immigrants. And, now, its legal director said she's not
afraid to go after more people like Barnett or Nethercott because of
the new law,.
"From a legal standpoint, it's nothing but the worst form of
political posturing. There is absolutely no doubt that this law will
never apply to any lawsuit in the state of Arizona or elsewhere,"
Mary Bauer said.
Roger Barnett told KGUN9 he has not paid any of the $70,000 he owes.
He said he's following the judicial process and going through appeals
court. He added that he will continue to call Border Patrol when he
sees illegal immigrants on his property and would even detain illegal
immigrants again, depending on the specific situation.
Nethercott was forced to give up his ranch near Douglas; that $50,000
went to the illegal immigrants who sued him, according to the
Southern Poverty Law Center. He still owes $450,000.
Senate Engrossed House Bill
State of Arizona
House of Representatives
First Regular Session
HOUSE BILL 2191
AMENDING TITLE 12, CHAPTER 5, ARTICLE 1, ARIZONA REVISED STATUTES, BY
ADDING SECTION 12-512; RELATING TO COURTS AND CIVIL PROCEEDINGS.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:
Section 1. Title 12, chapter 5, article 1, Arizona Revised Statutes,
is amended by adding section 12-512, to read:
12-512. Actions by illegal aliens prohibited
A PERSON WHO IS PRESENT IN THIS STATE IN VIOLATION OF FEDERAL
IMMIGRATION LAW RELATED TO IMPROPER ENTRY BY AN ALIEN SHALL NOT BE
AWARDED PUNITIVE DAMAGES IN ANY ACTION IN ANY COURT IN THIS STATE.
Sec. 2. Retroactivity
This act applies retroactively to any cause of action that accrues on
or after January 1, 2004.
Sec. 3. Emergency
This act is an emergency measure that is necessary to preserve the
public peace, health or safety and is operative immediately as
provided by law.