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Officials: Man Not Held Against His Will

Associated Press | April 7, 2005
By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN

TUCSON, Ariz.- Authorities determined Thursday that three volunteers involved in a civilian project to watch the border and report illegal crossers did not hold an illegal immigrant against his will.

The Mexican man had told sheriff's deputies that he was detained and forced to pose for a picture holding a T-shirt with a mocking slogan. The shirt read: "Bryan Barton caught an illegal alien and all I got was this T-shirt." Barton was one of the three volunteers.

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"The county attorney's office reviewed all available evidence, that indicates that there was no forcible detention, therefore the case is not substantiated, and no charges are pending," said Carol Capas, a spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff's Department.

The sheriff's department, Mexican Consul Miguel Escobar and the U.S. Border Patrol also agreed that the 26-year-old man was not detained, said Capas and Border Patrol spokeswoman Andrea Zortman.

The volunteers involved in Wednesday's incident identified themselves as members of the Minuteman Project - a monthlong effort that has people from around the country spread out along a stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border to report undocumented migrants and smugglers.

Law enforcement officials have said they fear the project will lead to vigilante violence. Mexico's foreign relations department also pledged in the days leading up to the civilian operation to pursue all legal and diplomatic means to stop the volunteers and ensure that they do not violate the rights of Mexican citizens.

Wednesday's incident was the first reporting any possible detention, though volunteers earlier assisted an immigrant in distress.

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