- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Perhaps no political issue better illustrates how out of touch Washington is than illegal immigration. Polling data shows that Americans overwhelmingly support a tougher stance toward illegals, yet the message does not seem to have gotten through to Congress, where powerful Democratic lawmakers are preventing floor consideration of two major pieces of legislation. One is the SAVE Act, a bill to curb illegal immigration through stepped-up enforcement - in particular, more resources to enable federal, state and local authorities to arrest, detain and eventually remove illegals. The SAVE Act (H.R. 4088 ) is the number one legislative alternative to “comprehensive immigration reform” (i.e., mass amnesty).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has blocked the SAVE Act from coming to the floor for a vote, and it is likely dead for this year. Another bill, which would encourage businesses to use a state-of-the art system called E-Verify to find out whether a job applicant is in the United States legally, has been endorsed by both John McCain and Barack Obama. On July 31, the House voted 407-2 to continue the program. But the ACLU is strongly opposed to E-Verify, and Sen. Robert Menendez, an open-borders New Jersey Democrat, has blocked its passage in the Senate.

While Congress finds ways to avoid addressing the employment magnet that draws illegals into the United States, the American people continue to be victimized by criminals who unlawfully enter the country. The issue has become a large one in Colorado, where Francis Hernandez, an illegal alien, has been charged with manslaughter, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident in connection with a Sept. 4 accident in Aurora, Colo., a Denver suburb, that left three people dead, including 3-year-old Marten Kudlis, who was getting ice cream with his mother. Mr. Hernandez, a Guatemalan national, is accused of running a red light in a sport utility vehicle and crashing into a truck. Both vehicles went careening into an ice-cream shop, killing Marten and two women in the truck.

Neither federal nor Colorado officials have been able to satisfactorily explain how Mr. Hernandez was able to avoid deportation despite 16 arrests and at least three stints of incarceration in local jails for minor crimes, which included giving police officers an alias and lying about having a driver’s license. Indeed, it is not clear whether he ever had a driver’s license or a job, or who owned the Chevrolet Suburban that Mr. Hernandez allegedly crashed into the truck 11 days ago. But a bizarre series of occurrences enabled him to remain free despite his illegal status in the United States - even as he continued to be arrested (and in at least some cases, convicted) of traffic violations and minor crimes. On May 24, Denver police stopped and wrote Mr. Hernandez a summons for multiple offenses, which included driving without a valid license and proof of insurance. One week later, police cited him again for driving without a valid license and other violations.

Mr. Hernandez missed another court date and did not appear before a judge on the charges until he was arrested again on July 18, when police stopped him for not having a license plate on his car and smelled alcohol on his breath. Mr. Hernandez gave police an alias and attempted to flee. The Denver Post reported that when the defendant appeared before Denver County Circuit Court Judge Claudia Jordan, court records included some information about his prior traffic-related offenses but apparently omitted information about time Mr. Hernandez had spent in jail for crimes that included lying about having a driver’s license. Mr. Hernandez pled guilty to one minor count, and Judge Jordan gave him until Dec. 17 to obtain a license to drive - telling him that if he did, the defendant would not have to serve jail time. He now faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted in the Sept. 4 incident.

Right now, Colorado politicians and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are debating whether state and local officials notified ICE about Mr. Hernandez - as they should have. But regardless of who dropped the ball in the particular case, open-borders politicians like Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Menendez, who have made this country a welcoming place for illegals, have to shoulder some of the blame for the fact that aliens like Francis Hernandez continue to walk the streets.

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