10/4/2006Arizona: Good Samaritans Face Automobile Seizure
Failing to verify the citizenship status of passengers could result in automobile seizure, even when transporting victims to a hospital.
Attempting to help someone in distress could cost you your automobile in areas along the US border with Mexico. Several good Samaritans have had their car seized because they failed to verify the citizenship status of their passengers.
In Marana, Arizona a year and a half ago, Richard Morales, 23, gave his neighbor of ten years a ride to a junkyard to get parts to repair a car. A Border Patrol agent stopped him, discovered his passenger was in the country illegally -- to the surprise of Morales. The agent arrested Morales and seized his car.
"He had a job here, three kids, a wife that worked at Wal-Mart," Morales told the Tuscon Citizen newspaper. "Why should I ever think about it? I lost the car. I lost my job. I lost everything."
"It doesn't make any difference whether you're taking them to the grocery store or taking them from the desert to the hospital," U.S. Border Patrol agent Jesus Rodriguez explained to the Citizen. "There is no free pass."
In 2005, Daniel Strauss and Shanti Sellz, both 23, drove three dehydrated men who were dying in the desert to a medical clinic in Tuscon. Because the men were illegal aliens, the pair were arrested. A federal judge last month tossed out the case without ruling on the legality of their actions.