Way back in March 2004, Arizona rancher Roger Barnett armed with a semi-automatic .45 and a large dog, rounded up a bunch of illegal immigrants who were on his ranch and handed them over to the authorities. The four women alleged they had been held at gunpoint and one of them had been assaulted by Barnett.
Then the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) stepped in to fight for the rights of the immigrants and filed a lawsuit against Barnett.
Arizona lawmakers stepped in to help Barnett and passed legislation forbidding the courts from awarding punitive damages to illegal immigrants. Arizona voters ratified the measure with 74 percent voting for it.
This didn't help Barnett because the law was not retroactive and the rancher ended up being held guilty for assault. The court ruled in 2009 that he had to pay $77,000 to the victims, including $60,000 in punitive damages awarded by the jury. Barnett appealed and lost in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. By then, the amount payable had climbed up to $87,000 with interest.
The Arizona legislature stepped in again and amended the law to make it retroactive to Jan 1, 2004 so that it would apply to the Barnett case. But again the law went against the lawmakers and Barnett.
This time, senior U.S district judge Frank Zapata ruled that the newly amended law didn't apply to the Barnett case because the plaintiffs' status was legal when the punitive damages were awarded. The court also agreed with MALDEF's arguments regarding the unconstitutionality of Arizona's rapid amendments of its immigration laws.
What happened was that one of the four women that Barnett rounded up in March 2004 had gone back to Mexico and the other three were by holding valid documents to remain in the US when the punitive damages were awarded. This meant that Barnett's "Rule 60" motion under Arizona law did not apply to any of the four plaintiffs.
Did you know?
Immigrants who are crime victims can apply for a U Visa.
US immigration law has provision for a U Visa which allows immigrants to seek temporary legal status if they have been victimized. Immigrants granted a U Visa can work in the U.S. for up to 4 years. Those who do get approved may seek visas for family members under this category.