Justice Is Often Elusive for Families of Loved Ones Killed by Illegal Aliens

August 21, 2019 Updated: August 21, 2019

WASHINGTON—Getting justice after someone kills a loved one can be an empty process at the best of times. But for those whose loved ones were killed by illegal aliens, justice is often scarce and weighted toward the perpetrators. And the porous southwest border doesn’t guarantee that those who get deported, stay deported.

Aileen Smith has no idea if the man who killed her baby and debilitated her is back in the United States. She said Ramon Hernandez, a Honduran national, had lived here illegally for years after overstaying his visa.

“Prior to his deportation, while in litigation with us, he made it very apparent—he said it openly—that he had no intention of staying gone, that he would just come right back,” Smith said.

Hernandez’s driver’s license had been revoked 12 years prior to the crash and he had seven DUIs, three of which occurred after his license was revoked.

On June 10, 2012, Smith, who was seven months pregnant, and her husband were driving from Colorado Springs to San Diego for the baby shower for their first child. The crash happened on a New Mexico highway, when Hernandez cut across the road in front of the Smiths.

Smith bore the brunt of the impact and was pinned inside the vehicle.

“I broke my sternum in two places, had mass internal bleeding, I shredded my kidneys, my abdominal wall, my uterine wall, of course, being seven months pregnant, and my water broke,” Smith said. “I was rushed to Saint Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where my son, Dimitri, was born alive and died a minute later due to massive head injury and bleeding on the brain.”

Smith was told she, too, almost died and that it was unlikely she’d have more kids.

“I’m thoroughly disabled from the crash. I mean, just this last year, my internal organs collapsed and I had to go have reconstructive surgery for that. And I’m still dealing with the effects of what happened,” she said.

Aileen Smith
A photo of Aileen Smith after a car crash with an illegal alien. She was 7 months pregnant and had just given birth to Dimitri, who immediately died. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Smith, who is now 32, said the litigation process went on for 5 1/2 years, and she had to alert ICE every time Hernandez appeared in court, in case he was let go for any reason.

“New Mexico had a horrible problem of just throwing out cases on the spot and saying, ‘All right, ICE will come pick you up on Tuesday, just make sure you answer the door.’ And of course, no one was there to answer the door,” she said.

No roadside sobriety test was taken at the time of the crash, as Hernandez told police he was the passenger, not the driver—after the actual passenger ran off after the accident.

“So that became the hinge point of a lot of our trial,” Smith said. But it didn’t end at the completion of a trial that found Hernandez guilty of vehicular homicide. He appealed on grounds that the judge was prejudiced. The appellate court sided with him, and the Smiths were facing a second trial.

“And so instead of going through another jury trial for it to potentially be ruled as not guilty, we agreed to credit for time served followed by deportation,” Smith said. Hernandez spent about 5 1/2 years in jail.

She said she believes he is back in the country, but she is reluctant to find out what ICE knows.

“I’m afraid it would drive me insane,” she said. “It’s terrifying. Especially thinking that this kind of thing—nothing’s stopping this kind of thing from happening again.”

Meanwhile, Smith is preparing for her third reconstructive surgery.

“I’m 32 looking at a possible colostomy bag, and it’s awful. It’s awful,” she said.

“The inequality between the victims of these situations and the illegal aliens is just astounding. Attorneys will jump out of the woodwork to represent these people. But these illegal aliens still seem to be almost like a protected class, and they escape the fullest extent of the law. And the victims, meanwhile, have to work overtime to try to make sure that the perpetrator stays in jail.”

Brandon Michael

For the last year, Kiyan and Bobby Michael have been on the front line in Florida’s legislature, fighting for the state to pass legislation banning sanctuary policies that shield illegal aliens from immigration authorities. They won, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law on June 14.

For the Michaels, the fight was personal. Their 21-year-old son, Brandon, was killed by a twice-deported, unlicensed illegal alien in a 2007 car crash.

“The illegal alien got out of the car, and he watched Brandon take his last breath, and he did nothing to try to help him. He did nothing to try to get him help,” Kiyan said.

Angel mom
Kiyan and Bobby Michael, whose son, Brandon, was killed by an illegal alien, stand near the U.S. Mexico border in Rio Grande City, Texas, on April 26, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

She said Mario Tellez, a Mexican national, refused to admit that he was driving, although no one else was in the car with him. But it forced the state to have to prove that he was behind the wheel.

“So now we’re not only grieving the sudden loss, unexpected loss of our child that [had] left our home happy in one piece, healthy—to now we have to go through a lengthy trial,” Kiyan said. “And we also had to go back to the scene of the crash and beg for witnesses to come forward.”

Tellez was arrested three weeks after the crash, after Kiyan made countless calls. “We had to make calls and keep calling and keep begging and keep pleading in order for him to be arrested,” she said.

He was sentenced to two years and then deported.

“We do not know if he’s back in this country. We don’t know if he’s back in this city,” Kiyan said, referring to her home city of Jacksonville.

“It’s a terrible feeling and it’s what drives us today—it’s one of the things that drives us today—because we did not receive justice in our son’s case.

“He was driving without a license and a few months before he killed our son, he had been stopped by local law enforcement with no driver’s license and they just gave him a ticket and sent him on.”

Bobby Michael said he spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy. “Part of our responsibilities was to keep our nation safe,” he said. “I was let down by our government because of the lack of enforcing the laws that were already on the books at the time that our son was killed.”

Sarah Root

For Michelle Root, it is an ongoing nightmare. Her daughter, Sarah, was at a stop light on Jan. 31, 2016—the night of her college graduation—when a drunk, unlicensed driver, who was traveling almost 70 miles per hour in a 35 zone, slammed into her vehicle. She didn’t stand a chance.

Beyond trying to wrap her head around the sudden, tragic loss of her daughter, Root had to grapple with the fact that the man who killed her was in the United States illegally.

Then, as she was planning her daughter’s funeral, she was told the driver, Honduran Edwin Mejia, had posted $5,000 bail and was free. He never showed up to court and is now on ICE’s most wanted list.

“As it stands right now, there’s nobody accountable for Sarah’s death,” which makes it even worse, Root said.

“Because even though it’s not going to bring Sarah back, at least it would have felt like some justice was served. And that her death wasn’t in vain.”

No one knows whether Mejia escaped across the U.S.–Mexico border or is still in the United States.

Angel mom
Michelle Root, whose daughter Sarah Root was killed by an illegal alien, speaks at an Angel Families event about the negative impact of illegal alien crime in America in front of the Capitol in Washington, on Sept. 7, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Ronil Singh

The illegal alien charged with police officer Ronil Singh’s murder almost got away.

Gustavo Perez Arriaga, a Mexican national, is charged with fatally shooting Singh during a routine traffic stop in California during the early hours of Dec. 26, 2018.

He was captured while trying to flee to Mexico, after a two-day manhunt. He had two prior DUI arrests.

Kate Steinle

Jose Ines Garcia-Zarate, the felon and five-time deported illegal alien who shot and killed Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier in 2015, was acquitted of murder charges in 2017 after a jury decided he wasn’t responsible for the bullet he fired, which fatally struck Steinle while she was with her father.

Garcia-Zarate was instead sentenced to three years in prison—reduced for time served—for felony possession of a firearm.

He still faces federal firearms charges, which would bring another 10 years if he is convicted. Immigration officials said they plan to deport him for the sixth time.

Meanwhile, Steinle’s parents have been blocked from suing San Francisco officials over sanctuary policies that saw the release of Garcia-Zarate from jail three months before the shooting despite a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to hold him for deportation.

On March 25, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a unanimous ruling refused to reinstate a lawsuit that Steinle’s parents filed against San Francisco and its former sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi.

Kate Steinle
A photo of Kate Steinle, who was killed by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco, is shown during a hearing on Capitol Hill, July 21, 2015. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Ronald da Silva

Illegal alien Luis Humberto Gonzalez shot Ronald da Silva in California in April 2002.

Da Silva’s mother, Agnes Gibboney, has been outspoken about illegal immigration ever since. But she is afraid for her safety, as Gonzalez is set to be released from prison this November, earlier than the original February 2020 date she’d been given.

She recently learned that he may not be handed over directly to ICE.

“They told me that he has an ICE hold … but if he has a medical condition, they would not turn him over to ICE, they will release him so that he can get medical care, and then he would turn himself over to ICE. Really? I mean, duh? Do you think he’s going to turn himself over to ICE?” Gibboney said.

“Any crime is not OK—perpetrated by anybody, a citizen or not. But what makes a crime by an illegal alien—especially the ones that were previously deported—more serious, is that they were already removed because they did not fit in our country, did not follow laws, and they were committing crimes, victimizing citizens of this country. And it’s an insult to know that they so freely can come back, return, to continue with their life of crime.”

Angel mom
Agnes Gibboney whose son, Ronald, was killed by an illegal alien, stands near the U.S. Mexico border in Rio Grande City, Texas, on April 26, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Pierce Corcoran

Pierce Corcoran, 22, was killed on Dec. 29, 2018, when illegal alien Francisco Eduardo Cambrany Franco swerved into oncoming traffic and struck his car head-on near Knoxville, Tennessee.

Franco, 44, faced charges of criminally negligent homicide and driving without a license or insurance, but instead was deported to Mexico before standing trial.

Franco’s public defender had argued in court in January that there was “nobody in this courtroom who [had] more to stay [sic] in this community” than Franco, according to Knox News.

Corcoran’s mother, Wendy Corcoran, said her family knows that there’s nothing they can do to bring Pierce back.

“But don’t tell me my son, who lived in this country and followed its rules, doesn’t deserve better,” she wrote on the website Justice for Pierce Corcoran.

“For God’s sake, out of respect for the men and women who fought and fight to make this country such a desirable place to live, DO THE RIGHT THING and come here legally and become a responsible citizen.”

Illegal Alien Crime

No federal database exists for tallying the crimes that illegal aliens are charged for, but the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) collects data for its state crimes.

The DPS data shows that more than 202,000 illegal aliens were booked into local Texas jails in the eight years ending July 31.

The data doesn’t include the number of DUI charges, but the 202,000 illegal aliens were charged with more than 317,000 criminal offenses during the eight-year period, including 570 homicide charges, almost 40,000 drug charges, and more than 8,700 sexual assault and sexual offense charges.

“These figures do not attempt to allege that foreign nationals in the country illegally commit more crimes than other groups,” the report states. “It simply identifies thousands of crimes that should not have occurred and thousands of victims that should not have been victimized because the perpetrator should not be here.”

The data doesn’t include federal criminal charges.

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