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México investigates allegations against Minutemen

Associated Press Writer

MÉXICO CITY (AP): Mexican authorities are investigating reports that 13 migrants may have been apprehended by U.S. civilians guarding the Arizona-México border against illegal crossers, a top foreign relations official said Monday.

Volunteers part of the “Minuteman Project,” some of whom are armed, began patrolling April 1 for migrants crossing the Arizona-México boundary, considered the most porous stretch of the 2,000-mile U.S.-México border. 

Mexican Deputy Foreign Secretary for North America Geronimo Gutierrez said he had received reports that 13 Mexicans were “detained and referred to the Border Patrol” by U.S. volunteers.

``We are doing an investigation in each one of these cases,'' Gutierrez said. ``The Border Patrol of the Tucson Sector up to this moment has confirmed that this is not true, but nevertheless we will finish with the investigation.'' 

Fred Elbel, a spokesman for Minuteman Project, said late Monday he didn't know anything about the accusations migrants had been detained improperly.

``I have not heard a thing about that,'' Elbel said in a phone interview. ``Maybe it happened, maybe it didn't. But I'm fairly sure that if it had happened with Minuteman Project that I would have heard about it.''

The Minuteman Project volunteers claim they are out to identify illegal crossers to U.S. authorities and call attention to the illegal migration issue.

Elbel said project volunteers ``do not detain anybody.''

``We simply observe,'' he said. ``We look and we report.''

But Mexicans commonly refer to the volunteers as ``migrant hunters,'' and officials in México City have been on guard against human rights violations.

Migrants are being interviewed as they are repatriated to México to monitor how they are being treated, Gutierrez said.

``We haven't so far received any reports of there having been an aggression against Mexican migrants on the part of these people,'' he said.

Gutierrez said Mexican authorities are prepared to file complaints in U.S. courts against volunteer patrols that take the law into their own hands or abuse Mexicans in any way.

``In the United States without a doubt there exists just like in México the freedom to congregate,'' Gutierrez said at a press conference. ``That is why it's important to identify the crimes for which these people can be tried according to their own U.S. legislation. This includes battery, false arrest, assault and many more. ... As soon as a crime of that nature is constituted there, we will proceed without a doubt.''






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