The Very Model of a Modern Illegal Alien?

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on March 7, 2011

Immigration and Customs Enforcement shares responsibility for the death of a nun and two others' injury in Prince William County, Va., last year. The internal ICE report on the matter, which it took a Freedom of Information Act demand to make public, points the finger squarely at ICE for the release of illegal alien Carlos Martinelly Montano, who stands accused of manslaughter while driving under the influence. The public interest legal watchdog Judicial Watch pursued the FOIA action, and its contents were picked up in the media.

The Bolivian native unlawfully entered the United States with his family in 1996 (making him the prototypical DREAM amnesty poster child). Montano sought to legalize his status in 2007, when he applied for adjustment of status. ICE reports the basis of this adjustment request was that his father now had applied for an employment-based visa. The ICE document reflects the "chain migration" even of illegal aliens – making the situation all the more complicated with each arriving relative. An obvious hole to fill in the leaky visa system involves adjustment of status.

We desperately need to rethink the ability to adjust from illegal to legal status while residing in the United States on any basis. Adjustments from temporary visas to permanent visas while remaining in the United States pose enough problems without our nation countenancing illegal aliens' adjustment. In-the-U.S. adjustment of status needs its own status adjustment.

Montano had two previous DUIs. The second arrest, in 2008, led to his being pegged as an immigration lawbreaker. Local police handed custody of Montano to ICE, which put the illegal into deportation proceedings. ICE put Montano into alternative tracking instead of actual detention. Montano cooperated in the alternative program. He checked in with his supervisor, appeared at his immigration proceedings, etc. And the low priority to ICE of aliens who aren't known rapists, murderers, or terrorists makes the Montanos of the world pretty much "model" illegal aliens. Plus, family members, Catholic Charities, and others begged for Montano to remain at large.

But Montano was hardly a model denizen, from the viewpoint of most Americans. The ICE report says:

In the course of ICE's review of the Montano case, it was discovered that Montano had two encounters with law enforcement at the county level during 2009-2010. County court records show that Montano was charged on March 5, 2009, in Fairfax County, Virginia, with misdemeanor failure to appear related to driving without a license. Local officials dismissed this charge against Montano on May 5, 2009. County officials did not contact ICE. On April 27, 2010, a Manassas Park police officer cited Montano for misdemeanor reckless driving. There is no record indicating that Montano was booked or fingerprinted or that Manassas Park officials contacted ICE. On June 1, 2010, Montano was convicted for reckless driving and fined $500. Again, ICE was not contacted following the citation or conviction.

This case shows why even the meager Secure Communities program (and the more robust 287(g) program) can close a lot of information-sharing gaps and bring in the force-multiplier of state and local law enforcement in dealing with the imported criminal element problem. Further, it illustrates why every level of the criminal justice and immigration systems ought to have an individual's full criminal and immigration record as part of its case file and that those be taken into account in decision-making.