Texas Border-Terror Group Gets Sued
- Texas Border-Watch Group Gets Sued
.c The Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - A self-styled border-watch group was accused of terrorizing six undocumented immigrants in a lawsuit aimed at bankrupting the organization and any ranchers who cooperate with it.
The suit, filed Thursday, labels the Abilene-based Ranch Rescue an illegal paramilitary unit that is motivated by racial hatred.
Ranch Rescue's stated mission is defending private property, and it has conducted ``operations'' along the country's southern border, rounding up undocumented immigrants and even seizing drug loads.
The suit said rancher Joe Sutton invited Ranch Rescue onto his property in Jim Hogg County this spring and caught four Mexicans and two Salvadorans.
According to the lawsuit, the four Mexicans were robbed and forced to ``walk barefoot through cactus and rattlesnake infested country'' after their shoes were confiscated. One Salvadoran said he was pistol-whipped; criminal charges are pending against one Ranch Rescue volunteer.
Sutton called the accusations ``total hogwash,'' saying the four shoeless Mexicans merely had to sit on the pavement by his ranch gate while federal agents came to pick them up.
``I interviewed all six (immigrants) and they made it crystal clear to me they were not hungry, were not abused, and they weren't thirsty,'' Sutton told the San Antonio Express-News for Friday's editions.
Ranch Rescue founder Jack Foote, who was also named in the suit, said he knew nothing about the Mexicans but said the two Salvadorans were treated well.
``No one was hit, assaulted or robbed,'' said Foote, 45.
Sutton is part of a recent wave of ranchers and citizen groups that have taken up unofficial patrolling along the southern border in the name of national security. Many carry guns and sport patriotic images.
Laredo lawyer Ricardo de Anda said the lawsuit aims to bankrupt Ranch Watch and Sutton.
``We feel if we get the landowners to stop cooperating with these Ranch Rescue paramilitary types, they will wilt on the vine,'' de Anda said.
De Anda was joined in filing the suit by the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala., and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, based in Los Angeles.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has often targeted the finances of groups it finds offensive.
Among other cases, in 2000, the white supremacist Aryan Nation in Couer d'Alene, Idaho, was bankrupted after SPLC attorney Morris Dees helped a mother and son win $6.3 million over an attack by the group's security guards.
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05/30/03 14:25 EDT
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