On July 5, Nemias Garcia-Velasco, a citizen of Mexico residing illegally in the United States in the Omaha, Neb., area, crashed into a guard rail on an interstate highway, from which his work van plunged down an embankment directly into a massive concrete overpass pillar. The crash left one of his two passengers dead (see here and here).
According to prosecutors now charging Garcia-Velasco with vehicular homicide, he had drunk 10 to 12 beers before getting behind the wheel. They also allege that he had been driving around 100 miles per hour, and they allege that he had been removed, both formally and informally (via "voluntary return"), from the United States at least seven times previously.
Now here's the interesting part: At least one media account cites the prosecutor handling the case, Ryan Lindberg, this way: "Lindberg also added that Garcia-Velasco had also been convicted of having false citizenship papers prior to the crash, just a day after the Fourth of July holiday."
We are left with several unanswered questions:
First, why was Garcia-Velasco still out on the street if he had just been convicted of a federal felony offense punishable by three years in jail? Did the judge not take the charge seriously? Did the prosecutors in that case agree to an inappropriate sentence to "time served" or the like?
Second, given his flagrant and repeated violation of the immigration laws, why was he not concurrently charged with reentry after removal, another federal felony charge that applied equally well in his case?
Third, why did agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) not take him immediately into custody for deportation (again) after the conviction for false claim to citizenship, if the judge and prosecutor weren't going to send him to jail?
Fourth, if he was drinking and driving someone's work van, what did his employers know about his immigration status? Did they employ him despite knowing he was illegally in the United States? (How could they not know he was illegally in the country, if he had just been convicted of a false claim to citizenship?) And if they did know, then they also may be susceptible to either criminal or civil penalties under the immigration laws.
What is clear is that, once again, a criminal illegal alien fell through the cracks at the interstice between our nation's immigration and criminal justice systems, and someone else paid the price.
Our Congress, specifically the Senate, can now do something about such circumstances rather than doom them to be repeated endlessly at great and tragic human cost. The House of Representatives recently passed two pieces of legislation introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). The two, combined, would go a long way toward ensuring that alien criminals who belong in jail, go to jail; and that jurisdictions which are otherwise inclined to release them to the street are held in check. The bills are known as "Kate's Law" and the "No Sanctuaries for Criminals Act".
The first bill, named for Kate Steinle, who was murdered by a multiply deported alien criminal, would enhance the penalties for reentry after removal (although it stops short of requiring mandatory minimums). The second bill would strip federal funding from state and local governments that fail to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts, including by not honoring immigration detainers filed against alien criminals, and would also afford immunity from lawsuit to state and local agencies and officers engaged in such cooperative efforts.