The Virginia man suspected in a drunken-driving crash that killed a Catholic nun in Prince William County this weekend is an illegal immigrant and repeat offender who was awaiting deportation and whom federal immigration authorities had released pending further proceedings, police said Monday.
Carlos Montano, a county resident, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and drunken driving. Mr. Montano had been arrested two other times on drunken-driving charges, and on at least one of those occasions county police reported him to federal authorities.
“We have determined that he is in the country illegally. He has been arrested by Prince William County Police in the past, said police spokesman Jonathan Perok.
He said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was notified at the time of one of those arrests. “At the time of this incident, the accident yesterday, he was in the deportation process and was out on his recognizance for court proceedings.”
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The crash at around 8:30 Sunday morning killed Sister Denise Mosier and injured two other nuns as they were driving to a retreat at the Benedictine Monastery in Bristow, Va. The two injured nuns were in critical but stable condition late Monday, according to St. Gertrude High School in Richmond run by the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia.
Mr. Montano was being treated for injuries he received in the crash and was expected to be released from the hospital into police custody as early as Monday evening.
Messages left with ICE and the Homeland Security Department were not returned, but the incident raises questions about the agency’s policy of detaining only some illegal immigrants awaiting deportation.
“I have been saying for months now that this administration’s new policy of concentrating almost solely on ‘criminal aliens,’ and not enforcing the laws by deporting known illegal aliens, would have devastating consequences. Now, we see the tragic results this ‘virtual amnesty’ policy of the Obama administration has caused,” said Rep. Harold Rogers of Kentucky, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee.
“A life could have been saved had ICE just simply done their job to begin with,” Mr. Rogers said. “By implementing selective amnesty one case at a time, the U.S. government is literally putting lives at risk.”
The Obama administration has issued a policy of putting a higher priority on convicted criminals and suspected terrorists.
In a June 30 memo, John T. Morton, assistant secretary of homeland security for ICE, said agents should focus their capture and deportation efforts on illegal immigrants who were suspected of terrorism, had been convicted of violent crimes or were repeat offenders, gang members or “aliens who otherwise pose a serious risk to public safety.” He did not define what rose to the level of serious risk.
The latest ICE statistics show that the agency has stepped up deportations of criminals, but has slowed deportation of other illegal immigrants. The agency also is holding fewer illegal immigrants at any one time than it did last year, according to the statistics.
Critics have long demanded that ICE increase its bed capacity. In the years after the Sept. 11 attacks, some proposals called for a capacity increase to 60,000 beds to try to keep illegal immigrants off the streets while awaiting deportation. The president and Congress, however, never funded that request, and so far in fiscal 2010 ICE is holding 30,349 people on an average day.
The incident comes at a thorny time for the Obama administration and the immigration issue.
Early last week, a judge halted key parts of Arizona’s new immigration law, delivering a partial victory to the Justice Department, which had argued that the law intruded on federal jurisdiction.
But late last week, a draft memo obtained by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, showed that the administration has pondered ways to work around Congress and use its authority to extend legal status to many illegal immigrants. The memo called one of the methods it explored “a non-legislative version of ‘amnesty.’”
In the days since, Republicans have demanded that the administration rule out an end run around Congress.
Administration officials have said they won’t use the powers to offer blanket legal status.
“This administration believes that the only way to deal with immigration is to do it comprehensively, to do it through Congress with Democrats and Republicans working together,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told Fox News in an interview last week after the memo surfaced.The Virginia man suspected in a drunken-driving crash that killed a Catholic nun in Prince William County this weekend is an illegal immigrant and repeat offender who was awaiting deportation and who federal immigration authorities had released pending further proceedings, police said Monday.