Immigration crackdown in Colo.?
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” Colorado lawmakers are considering an audit of immigration enforcement after a suspected illegal immigrant with a long criminal record allegedly caused a crash that killed three people.
Legislators with the Audit Committee said Tuesday they will research what the investigation would entail before they decide in November whether to conduct it.
Police in suburban Aurora say 23-year-old Francis M. Hernandez ran a red light and hit a pickup truck broadside, sending it crashing into an ice cream store. The Sept. 4 accident killed 3-year-old Marten Kudlis, and the two women in the truck, Patricia Guntharp, 49, and Debra Serecky, 51.
State Auditor Sally Symanski said some of the challenges to consider before conducting an audit is how to collect data from the local law enforcement agencies because they don’t always share arrest information with each other.
Hernandez was arrested more than a dozen times since 2003 by nine law enforcement agencies, mostly for traffic misdemeanors, but that didn’t guarantee a particular court would know of his previous record, Symanski said.
“I think this case clearly illustrated how communication is so vital to public safety,” Symanski said.
Since the state can’t audit the federal government, Symanski also said they have to consider how to gather information about immigration enforcement from them.
In a letter requesting the audit, state Rep. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, asked for an investigation about “every ‘crack’ or ‘gap'” in the immigration enforcement system.
Also joining in the request for an audit were Rep. Karen Middleton and Sen. Suzanne Williams, also Democrats from Aurora.
Carroll said in the letter that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials failed to act when Hernandez was arrested for speeding in April. Arapahoe County sheriff’s officials say they notified ICE about him at the time, but officials there have maintained they were never told about Hernandez by any law enforcement agency ” as required by Colorado law with any suspected illegal immigrant ” until the fatal crash earlier this month.
Gov. Bill Ritter also ordered a review two weeks ago from the state Department of Public Safety on immigration enforcement. He asked for solutions to the problem, saying the federal government has “failed to fix a broken system.” That review is expected by the end of the year.
The Department of Public Safety includes the State Patrol, which legislators charged with creating an immigration unit in 2006. The troopers in the unit receive federal training to enforce immigration laws during the course of patrolling state highways. ICE said 18 states have law enforcement agencies who have taken the training, and the estimated 800 officers in the program have made more than 68,000 arrests since 2006. ICE said the trained Colorado troopers have made 930 arrests.
Hernandez, who ICE said is from Guatemala, is in jail awaiting a preliminary hearing on charges that include leaving the scene of an accident, third-degree assault, and three counts of felony vehicular homicide.
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