Colorado orders immigration review after 2 crashes
September 12, 2008
DENVER ” Gov. Bill Ritter ordered an immediate review of gaps in immigration enforcement on Friday after suspected illegal immigrants were involved in two crashes, one that killed three people.
Ritter told the state Department of Public Safety to look for solutions that state and local agencies can enforce, saying the federal government has failed to do its job.
“Immigration enforcement is ultimately the responsibility of the federal government, and clearly, Washington has failed to fix a broken system,” he said.
He said state and local agencies are “on the front lines” and have a responsibility to identify and help solve the problems.
A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the federal Homeland Security Department, did not immediately return a call.
A 3-year-old boy and two women were killed in a horrific crash at an ice cream shop in the Denver suburb of Aurora last week. Francis Hernandez, a Guatemala native suspected of being in the country illegally, was arrested on charges of vehicular homicide and other counts.
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Police say Hernandez, 23, has used 12 aliases and two dates of birth and has been arrested more than a dozen times since 2003.
This week, Aurora police arrested Hipolito Vasquez Rojas, 19, on charges of crashing a stolen car into a police cruiser and a tree.
The Rocky Mountain News reported Rojas was deported in April after serving time for auto theft, but his home country was not immediately known.
Ritter said local law-enforcement officials are frustrated because they notify federal authorities about suspected illegal immigrants but no action is taken.
Ritter told public safety director Peter Weir to report on his findings by the end of the year. Weir’s department includes the State Patrol, which has its own immigration unit, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Ritter said he asked Julie Lyn Myers, a Homeland Security assistant secretary for immigration, to join the review.
He said the state held a summit on illegal immigration in April but ICE did not participate.
“We need to re-engage the federal authorities in this process,” Ritter said.