Ranch Rescue is a volunteer organization that claims to assist American ranchers and owners of property near the United States-Mexico border in the protection of their property. The organization claims that the protection is necessary due to damages caused by unauthorized border crossers, which it characterizes as terrorist. It also claims that the government has willfully and intentionally failed to protect property owners. At one time, Ranch Rescue featured a web site with links to news articles and opinion pieces regarding the U.S.-Mexico border. It also served as a recruitment tool for future members of the group.
Ranch Rescue has had chapters in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, New Mexico, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia. As of 2003, its largest chapter in Arizona had disbanded. Generally, Ranch Rescue operates on private property at the behest of the owners. When a landowner requests protection from the organization, Ranch Rescue operatives set up a military-style operation on the property and terms it as such. The operatives use electronic surveillance equipment, binoculars, flares, two-way radios, trained dogs, and firearms and other weapons.
An operation at Sutton Ranch in Jim Hogg County, Texas, was termed "Operation Falcon". On March 18, 2003, Fatima Del Socorro Leiva Medina and Edwin Alfredo Mancia Gonzales, illegal immigrants from El Salvador, alleged that they were chased, detained, threatened, robbed and assaulted by Ranch Rescue operatives after being caught trespassing on the property. One operative, Henry Mark Conner, allegedly aimed a rifle at Leiva and Mancia during the incident. He and Casey James Nethercott, another operative, were indicted on charges of aggravated assault and unlawful restraint. Nethercott was additionally indicted on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. In 2011 the New York Times reported that Nethercott "has a string of assault and weapons convictions, and was once mentioned in Congressional testimony on abuses by bounty hunters for detaining at gunpoint two Southern California high school students on their way home from a football game."
Subsequent to the attacks, Leiva and Mancia sued the Texas chapter of Ranch Rescue. They were represented by attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, among others. They sued for damages relating to their physical injuries and emotional distress.
The judge in the case ruled in their favor. Joseph Sutton settled for $100,000, but neither Nethercott nor Ranch Rescue leader Jack Foote defended themselves in court. Nethercott was ordered to pay a default settlement of $850,000. Unable to pay the settlement, Nethercott was ordered to surrender his only asset —a 70-acre (280,000 m2) ranch near the Arizona-Sonora border.
In an action considered by some to be in response to this civil award, Arizona voters passed, in a favorable vote of 74.2% of votes cast, the Arizona Standing in Civil Actions, Proposition 102 (2006), preventing illegal immigrants from collecting punitive damages. This law, however, did not aid Ranch Rescue and, in 2011, Nethercott was quoted as saying, "If something happens with an illegal, and they try to sue you and get visas and amnesty, it won't work anymore. Nobody else will lose their home. That's what's important."
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