This is another story of failures and tragedy. On December 17, shortly before her 52nd birthday, Annette Conquering Bear was struck by a car and killed within steps of her home in Denver, while walking back from a short shopping trip with her husband. The individual who killed her fled without stopping.
Later news reports revealed the suspect — who was arrested after police traced the vehicle he abandoned — was one Juan Sanchez, native and citizen of Mexico, a six-time prior deportee with three drunk-driving arrests prior to the drunk-driving arrest and release that took place shortly before his deadly hit-and-run:
The 42-year-old suspect was also arrested three times for driving under the influence of alcohol in Adams County, Colorado ; Denver ; and Seattle, Washington [2002)].
According to KUSA-TV, Sánchez [was] arrested on suspicion of a DUI on December 13 after he drove into a Black Hawk, Colorado, casino's parking lot through the wrong ramp.
He spent several hours detained by the Gilpin County Sheriff's deputies before he was released.
It is unknown if the Black Hawk police had done a criminal background check on Sánchez after his blood alcohol level registered 0/183, twice the legal amount permitted under Colorado law.
This case raises so many issues, first among them the revolving-door nature of our porous southern border. If Sanchez is not a walking advertisement for the benefits of a substantive and complete border barrier, as close as possible to being "from sea to shining sea", then nothing ever will be.
We are also left asking, though, how and why he was not spending quality time in a federal penitentiary for the felony crime of illegal reentry after removal. This is an especially pertinent question given the recidivism he exhibited. Was he prosecuted? If not, why not? And if he was, what manner of lenient sentencing left him free to illegally reenter and then drive drunk, again and again, in the streets of the United States, resulting in the death of Ms. Conquering Bear?
Equally pressing is the question of why the Gilpin County Sheriff's Office (GCSO) did not turn Sanchez over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) given his egregious history. It is not credible that he wasn't fingerprinted upon his arrival either at the Black Hawk police department booking station, or later at the GCSO detention center for the December 13 arrest; and, if he was, then these police authorities would as a matter of routine have received an electronic response from the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer system that included his prior deportations and illegal status. The problem almost certainly is that they chose not to notify ICE because Colorado is a sanctuary state, thanks to the bright minds who passed and signed into law a statute prohibiting cooperation with ICE earlier this year.
There is a shared culpability, if that is the right word (and I think it may be), for the acts and failures to act that collectively resulted in the completely avoidable death of Annette Conquering Bear.
But if there is a bright line to draw between the actions of the federal and state/local officials, it is this: Sanchez's ability to continually cross the border illegally reflects the inability of our federal enforcement agents to fully cope with the outsized immigration crisis both at the border and in the interior and, more tellingly, the negligence of Congress in providing for legislative solutions, including a barrier and more personnel and technological and detention resources.
In contrast, his release by local authorities back onto the streets reflects a conscious decision to place the surrounding community at direct risk, with tragic results. It puts the lie to the bogus logic one hears about sanctuary policies making communities "safer". Don't believe me? Ask the residents of Montgomery County, Md.
We read much these days about various counties and cities (including some in Colorado) declaring themselves "Second Amendment sanctuaries" after state legislatures' overreach by establishing harsh and constitutionally questionable gun control laws that those counties and cities assert they will neither honor nor acknowledge. (See, e.g., here and here.)
Here's a thought for the Gilpin County Sheriff's Office and others similarly situated: Why not declare yourself a "sanctuary sanctuary" and refuse to go along with the nonsensical and dangerous immigration sanctuary policies foisted on you by irresponsible state legislators?