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Thanks to that change, criminal deportations are at an all-time high, but that has meant a drop in deportations of noncriminal immigrants.

The nuns’ religious order, the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, has publicly said it forgives Mr. Montano and that Sister Mosier would have done the same. The order also said the focus should be on Mr. Montano’s alcohol use, not on his status as an illegal immigrant.

“We all know that her inclusive spirit would not want her death to be a rallying point against undocumented persons as it has been this week,” Sister Cecilia Dwyer said in a funeral reflection posted on the order’s website.

That’s not how Ray Tranchant sees it. His 16-year-old daughter was killed in 2007 in an alcohol-fueled accident that police said was caused by an illegal immigrant who had previously been arrested for drunken driving. Mr. Tranchant said Mr. Montano’s legal status does matter.

“I’ve heard the argument time and time again this had everything to do with alcoholism. Well, of course it did. But for example, in Mexico City, how many people are killed every day [from drunken driving], but do we care? We don’t care because it’s not our problem. But when an illegal comes here and does it, it is different,” he said. “It’s not an alcoholism case; it’s a person who should not be at that point and time because the government didn’t do its job.”

He said the government does a good job of enforcing laws at airports and official points of entry but is not prepared to catch those who slip into the country by other means. He said the need for extra manpower is why local police should help enforce immigration laws.