Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Scott Gardner of Mount Holly, N.C., was on vacation and heading to the coast with his family when his station wagon was struck by a truck driven by Ramiro Gallegos, an illegal alien charged three times previously with drunk driving. Gardner, the father of two young children, was killed. Gallegos of Mexico was charged with second-degree murder and driving while impaired. It is uncertain where Gallegos was going at the time, but it is not surprising that he was in North Carolina.

Prosecutors and law enforcement officials blame an understaffed, underfunded immigration system for failing to deport an illegal immigrant charged three times with driving while impaired -- before being charged again Saturday in the death of a Gaston County teacher.
Ramiro Gallegos, an illegal Mexican immigrant, remained in the Brunswick County jail Tuesday on charges that include second-degree murder and DWI following the crash in coastal Brunswick County.

Gallegos' truck slammed into a Subaru station wagon driven by Scott Gardner of Mount Holly.
Gardner died. His wife, Tina, remains in critical condition. Their two children suffered minor injuries. The case raises questions: why Gallegos was never deported, and why the stiffest sentence he got for DWI was 30 days in jail, after his third charge.

Lee Bollinger, an assistant district attorney in Brunswick County, said law enforcement officials rarely notify immigration officials when undocumented residents are charged. "Law enforcement officers ... will tell you it does no good to report cases to (immigration officials) because they have so few agents that nobody shows up," he said. "Common sense tells you when you look at the number of illegal immigrants here in North Carolina, it's pretty clear that we don't have the resources to keep these people out." North Carolina has about 300,000 illegal immigrants, one of the highest populations in the country, according to one recent study. North Carolina has a single deportation officer. He's among fewer than 10 people in North Carolina who work for the Department of Homeland Security's Detention and Removal Operations.

Sue Brown, a spokeswoman for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, said immigration authorities arrested Gallegos in 1998. But neither the reason nor the result of the arrest were available. "We have finite resources like everybody else," Brown said. "And with 100 counties in North Carolina and the DWI cases that come every week, it's kind of staggering. So we're constantly reassessing where to put our resources."

According to records, Gallegos was first charged in early 2002. But prosecutors dismissed the case when he failed to appear in court. His first DWI conviction came in 2002 in Duplin County. His sentence: probation. In April 2004, Gallegos faced a third DWI charge, in Brunswick County, when he registered a blood alcohol level of 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit. The Supply resident was found guilty of DWI Level 1, the most serious level. Records show that Judge Tom Aldridge ordered a two-year prison sentence, the maximum. But he suspended that sentence and allowed Gallegos to spend 30 days in jail, serving those days over a period of 15 weekends. He also ordered 30 months probation, $600 in fines and $740 in restitution. on Tuesday, Aldridge refused to accept blame for the lighter sentence or for not addressing the suspect's immigration status. In fact, he said he can't recall the suspect's name and doesn't like to discuss his judgments. He said in 10 years on the bench, no officer or prosecutor has ever mentioned a drunken driver's immigration status. "Nobody has ever told me that any of the Hispanic people that are through here are legal or illegal," he said. "It just has never been an issue that has been raised or addressed."

The Scott Gardner Act "The Scott Gardner Act will make it mandatory to detain and deport any illegal alien convicted of DWI. DWI’s threaten the lives of everyone on the road, and it should be a deportable offense- not just a slap on the wrist. It’s just common sense. The Scott Gardner Act will also require State and local law enforcement officers to collect immigration information during the course of their normal duties and enter this information into Federal immigration databases. This is important because if law enforcement officials had a database they checked for each DWI pullover, the man who killed Scott Gardner would have never been on the road. They would have stripped his drivers license when they saw his DWI convictions. This bill will provide state and local law enforcement with the resources they need to accomplish this goal. And if they don’t, they will lose their State Criminal Alien Assistance Program funding…a federal funding program that most states utilize. The Scott Gardner Act will also require that all DWI convictions be included in the FBI’s National Criminal Information Center database within 30 days from the time of the incident. To ensure that this information is entered into these databases, and actually used, the Scott Gardner Act will provide State and local law enforcement with the training and resources to get the job done. I’m also going to push for State and local law enforcement agencies to use The Law Enforcement Support Center, run by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It serves as a national clearinghouse of immigration status and identity information for all law enforcement officials. The Scott Gardner Act will insist Immigration and Customs market and promote the Law Enforcement Support Center to local law enforcement personnel. It will also require states to get their officers trained to deal with illegal immigrants, which will be funded by the Department of Homeland Security. This training will allow State and local law enforcement officers to put illegal aliens who are driving drunk into mandatory detention and transport the illegal aliens so they can be quickly and efficiently deported." The 10K Run for the Border Act"I’m also introducing another bill today called the 10K Run for the Border Act. You often hear people say we need to seal off the border to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into our country. I wholeheartedly agree. But we also need to attack illegal immigration from the demand side. People are coming here because they are getting jobs. Let me be frank- Hiring an illegal alien is a crime. Right now across the country many legitimate business owners are struggling to compete against businesses who cheat the system and hire illegal aliens to keep their payroll low. I was once a small business owner, so I know how hard it is to scrap by and make a living. But, I never broke the law to make a profit. The 10K Run for the Border Act will raise the penalties businesses face for knowingly hiring illegal aliens. Currently, the fine is $250 per illegal. My bill will raise the fine to $10,000. It will also give an 80% cut of the fine to the local law enforcement agency assisting in the arrest. They can use this money to increase their efforts to curb illegal immigration. These two bills are just a start of reforming our broken Immigration System. There will be more to come from myself and my colleagues in Congress."
Rep. Myrick also stressed that these bills will help provide local and state law enforcement with the funding and tools they need to carry out the duties outlined in the bill. She also pointed out that these bills have enforcement mechanisms so that if these bills become law, they will not be idle on the books, but will be enforced. In addition, Rep. Myrick also spoke about a new program that the Department of Homeland Security will be introducing that will allow businesses to check the immigration status of a potential employee by just a few clicks on the internet. The program is very simple and gives a yes or no answer to the employer. Business who are interested in this program can click here to read more.

1 comment:

lisa chaney said...

I'm very sorry to here about your loss. I,m a firm beliver in the punishment does not fit the crime . If the court would do there jobs the right way it would save a lot of lives .Again sorry for your loss and your pain