President Gives Voice to ‘Ignored Families’ Amidst Immigration Debate

June 25, 2018 Updated: June 27, 2018

WASHINGTON—They are the families that have been permanently separated.

“Any time we want to see or be close to our kids, we go to the cemetery, because that’s where they are,” said Laura Wilkerson from Pearland, Texas. Her 18-year-old son, Josh, was killed in 2010.

“He was brutally tortured, strangled over and over. He was set on fire after death,” Wilkerson said.

Josh was murdered by a classmate, an illegal immigrant from Belize, who is now serving life in prison.

Amid all the rhetoric around the families being temporarily separated at the border for crossing illegally, President Donald Trump invited a group of parents whose children have been killed by illegal aliens to the White House on June 21.

The stories are heartbreaking.

“My daughter was Christy Sue Piña,” said Juan Piña from Greenfield, California. “Back in 1990, she was kidnapped, strangled, stabbed, raped, and sodomized, and her body was found in an artichoke field.”  

Piña said he has been fighting to extradite the killer from Mexico for more than 28 years.

“And on May 3, God answered my prayers and Mexico finally turned him loose to us. And he is now in the Monterey County Jail and we can start court procedures for my daughter’s death.”

Sarah Root was killed in 2016 on the night of her college graduation by an illegal alien who was drunk and speeding. He was subsequently released on a $5,000 bail and hasn’t been seen since.

“Our separation, like everybody has said, is permanent,” said Sarah’s mother, Michelle Root. “Sarah never gets to go on to be a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an aunt. My son does not have his only sibling any longer. My life has been devastated and so has my daughter’s family and friends.”

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L–R: Scott Root Jr., Michelle Root, Sarah Root, and Scott Root at Sarah’s graduation ceremony on Jan. 30, 2016, just hours before she was killed. (Courtesy of Michelle Root)

Root said she often gets asked why it matters that the driver, Edwin Mejia, was in the country illegally.

“What if he hadn’t been here? My daughter would be,” she said in a prior interview.

“I can’t play ‘what ifs,’ because he was. And, guess what, nobody else died in Omaha, Nebraska, on January 31 from a drunk driver. So what if Sarah would have lived?”

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Sergeant Brandon Mendoza and his mother, Mary Ann Mendoza. (Courtesy of Mary Ann Mendoza)

Mary Ann Mendoza said her son, Sgt. Brandon Mendoza, was killed as he drove home from work by an illegal alien who was drunk and high on meth.

Mendoza wrote a letter to former President Barack Obama in 2014 to ask why the driver, Raul Silva-Corona, was not deported 20 years earlier after he was convicted for crimes in Colorado.

She didn’t receive a response.

She expressed her gratitude to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. “You have just been there for us, and there are no words to describe what your support and your caring has meant to each and every one of us.”  

Now, as all the family members do, Mendoza also has to deal with vitriol on social media.

“I get called racist, I get called a Nazi pig. ‘Your son is a pig, you’re a Nazi pig,’” she said in a prior interview. “I can’t even say some of the names people have called me on Twitter.”

But, she said, she blocks them and keeps on with her work. Several of the family members launched a victim support group last year called Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime (AVIAC).

Media Coverage

Mendoza also accused the media of not reporting on crimes by illegal aliens.

“There’s hundreds of thousands of victims every year who are affected by illegal alien crime—rape, assault, identity theft,” she said.

“These are things that go unreported, unchecked. You know, if the public would go to and see the magnitude of crimes being committed against your fellow Americans by illegal aliens allowed to stay in this country, you will be sickened, because the mainstream media does not let you know what’s really happening.”

Trump said the media coverage is unfair.

“These are the families the media ignores. They don’t talk about them. Very unfair,” he said.  

“Where is the media outrage over the catch-and-release policies that allow deadly drugs to pour into our country? Where is the condemnation of the Democrat sanctuary cities that release violent criminals into our communities and then protect them?”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Tom Homan said that as of July 31, 2017, almost 10,000 criminal aliens who had been released onto the streets—rather than being turned over to ICE—have committed another crime.

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President Donald Trump speaks during an event with victims of illegal immigration in Washington,on June 22, 2018. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Crime Data

Most available crime data does not differentiate between illegal and legal immigrants, but federal prison statistics provide some detail.

Ninety-four percent of foreign-born federal prisoners are in the United States illegally, according to a December report by the departments of Homeland Security and Justice.

Illegal alien prisoners could make up as much as 19 percent of the total number of prisoners in the federal system. The estimated population of illegal aliens in the United States is 3 to 4 percent.

A total of 58,766 known or suspected aliens were in federal custody at the end of fiscal 2017, including 39,455 persons in Bureau of Prisons custody and 19,311 in U.S. Marshals Service custody, the report said.

Of this total, 37,557 were confirmed as aliens by ICE, while 21,209 foreign-born people were still under investigation to determine whether they are deportable. An alien is a noncitizen and non-national, according to ICE.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said noncitizens commit a substantially disproportionate number of drug-related offenses in particular, fueling the national drug crisis.

“Our citizens are being victimized by illegal aliens who commit crimes. The simple fact is that any offense committed by a criminal alien is ultimately preventable. One victim is too many,” Sessions said in a statement on Dec. 21.

The report doesn’t include data on the foreign-born or alien populations in state prisons and local jails—which account for approximately 90 percent of the total U.S. incarcerated population.

As of June 2016, there were 191,161 convicted criminals with pending deportation proceedings who were at large in the United States, according to an ICE Weekly Departures and Detention Report.

VOICE Report

Trump held the immigration event to coincide with the publication of the first quarterly report from the new office to assist victims of illegal alien crime, Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE).

ICE launched the VOICE office in April 2017, in response to an executive order by the president.

The office can help provide social services to victims, as well as allow them to track the alleged perpetrator in custody.

In one case, the victim’s call to VOICE led to an alien being arrested and detained, the report said. Another led to a criminal being deported.

The hotline took a total of 1,251 calls between April 26, 2017, and Sept. 30, 2017.

“VOICE assisted hundreds of families already, connected them to crucial services such as grief counseling, followed up their cases, and helped ensure that the criminal aliens that harmed their families so egregiously were detained, removed, and deported,” Trump said.


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