For many, crime is at the heart of the raging debate on immigration reform. Incidents of US citizens being hurt or killed by undocumented immigrants in 2010 show why that's so and how it's a years-old problem.
On August 1, 2010, Sister Denise Mosier and two other Catholic nuns of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia were driving to a religious retreat. A car driven by Carlos A. Martinelly Montano, a 23-year-old an illegal immigrant from Bolivia, spun out of control and hit the sisters' car head-on. Sister Denise was killed, and her two companions were seriously injured.
Montano was driving drunk at the time. According to reports, he has two previous DUI/DWI arrests and other traffic violations. He's also in the process of being deported, but there's a delay because of a backlog of deportation cases.
Sister Denise's case revitalizes an issue that's been debated for several years. Some argue undocumented immigrants are a big cause of increased crime rates across the country. In fact, the murder of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz by a suspected illegal immigrant in March 2010 was the catalyst for Arizona passing its controversial immigration law in April 2010.
On the other side, those opposed to tougher immigration laws point to reports and governments statistics showing that crime rates are dropping across the US and even faster in Arizona.
Regardless, the statistics are alarming and clearly show a connection between crimes and illegal immigration, and it's not a new phenomenon:
- In 2009, over 136,000 undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions were removed or deported from the US
- About 100,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records were removed in 2008
- Violent attacks on US Border Patrol Agents almost doubled from 2008 to 2009 according to the US Department of Justice, and the attacks are usually connected to illegal smuggling activities
- As of late 2009, there are hundreds of thousands of non-US citizens in jails across the country
There are similar statistics dating back to 2004 and even earlier.
Where Do You Stand?
As Sister Denise's tragic story shows, you don't have to live in a border state to be affected by illegal immigration. For many, the question is straightforward: If the US had tougher immigration laws and enforcement, would Sister Denise and Robert Krentz be alive today? Probably. They were the victims of crimes committed by people who aren't supposed to be here in the first place.
How do you fix it? Shortly after Sister Denise's death, Virginia's Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli announced that Virginia's law enforcement officers have the authority to establish the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest. Illegal immigrants are to be handed over to federal agents for deportation.
Does this sound like a solution? Make your opinions known. Contact your representatives in Washington, D.C., and your state's governor and lawmakers.
Everyone can agree that immigration reform is needed - whether its stricter enforcement of current laws, leniency for some undocumented immigrants, or something in between. Be part of the process and help make sure any solution is fair and reasonable.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Can a illegal immigrant with a criminal conviction stop a deportation action?
- Are all immigrants with criminal records barred from entering or staying in the US?
- Can police officers stop a driver simply because they think the driver is in the country illegally?