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I will say this at the beginning: During the May 1st illegal alien rally held in McArthur Park two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Police Department personnel stationed in that area responded far too excessively to a situation that required a determined and disciplined counter to a few thugs who used the rally for their own anarchistic ends.

Instead, the LAPD blew it. They blew it for themselves as an organization that seems eternally steeped in community recovery efforts, and to a lesser degree, they blew it for people such as myself who remain staunch advocates opposed to illegal immigration. Everyone understands and most reasonably agree the LAPD far exceeded their use of force (but not their authority) during the McArthur Park rally. Chief Bill Bratton was the first to come forward and accept responsibility for the unnecessarily brutal actions taken by those under his command (Mayor Villaraigosa was nowhere to be found–he was dubiously conducting international diplomacy in Latin America.) Bratton condemned those actions and he immediately punished officers who took the lead in the debacle. Additionally, the chief has borne witness to countless community members (I won’t say citizens since most are probably illegals) during public meetings as he and the LAPD in general were vilified and disparaged by a myriad of angry Los Angeles residents–people whose ire, without deviation was directed squarely upon Bratton and the police department. Again, understandably so and the police chief admitted as much.

Yet those who came out in denunciation against the rock and bottle-throwing hoodlums responsible for triggering the entire mess in the first place were few and far between, if there were any at all. The police response was disproportionate, antagonistic, and irresponsible. The thugs who initiated the whole mess were and are despicable. Yet even our Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has said little to excoriate the few dirt bags who turned a relatively peaceful day into something that is now dramatically referred to as “The May Day Melee.” Instead, he has joined the mass of legal citizens and illegal aliens who simply wish to impugn the entirety of the LAPD.

Going that extra mile, as he is always want to do in situation where he’s guaranteed a high degree of media attention, Villaraigosa has decided to turn his back on the Los Angeles Police Department by attending a highly publicized rally taking place this evening in McArthur Park. The rally is being headed by Nativo Lopez, left-wing illegal alien proponent, open borders advocate, and amnesty champion for 12 to 20 million criminals living in the United States in direct violation of our laws. And Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, along with illegal-aliens-should-have-a-drivers-license-too Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Lopez at this obviously anti-LAPD rah-rah.

While I’m most likely repeating myself, Villaraigosa has chosen not to represent me as a legal resident of the United States and citizen of Los Angeles. Nor does he represent any of the other millions of legal Angelinos unfortunate enough to live under his reign. Villaraigosa is squarely in league with illegal aliens and Mexican nationals who break our laws, who run down our education system, who destroy our state health care institutions, who import and sell drugs, and who murder legal citizens. Villaraigosa has declared his deplorable intentions against me and everyone else of legal status in this city–he cares not for our concerns. Yet if you’re an illegal alien, he’ll be there for you. He may even let you register to vote.

Of course, this only further brings to light the breaking news of the day concerning the immigration reform/amnesty bill agreement between several “key senators.” Any bill or law that focuses on amnesty first and border enforcement second, as does this one, will ultimately fail with disastrous results. How many times does it need to be said? Secure the border first, then look at dealing with the millions of illegals already in this country.

One important factor many of the apparently clueless political progenitors in charge of the country seem to overlook is the simple fact of repetition from absolution acutely evidenced after the illegal alien amnesty granted back in 1986. After that amnesty the U.S. saw one of the largest floods of illegals pour into this country–more illegals hoping for another amnesty–simply because they did not take border enforcement seriously prior to passing that legislation. And it will happen again if anything resembling an amnesty passes. Not only do we receive multitudes more before a proposed amnesty, without a secure border we simply repeat the process ad infinitum until this country is buried under the weight of its imported and impoverished masses. The third world latino dystopias that fester in most of our large cities will boil over with disillusionment, anger, and eventual rebellion pointed at those considered the elite–the middle-class. Don’t think it will happen? Look at the suburban Paris riots of 2005. It’s nearly the same scenario. Little to no attempt at assimilation by these groups only expands the chasm between their culture and ours, worsening the situation even further.

Perhaps this will all one day be moot anyway. With the recent discovery that ethically questionable groups such as the National Council of La Raza and MALDEF are being allowed virtual veto power over any immigration bill that does not meet with their standards and their demands (see below), one can discern where this road we’re traveling is likely guiding us.

Maybe affirmative action laws aren’t so bad. As an Anglo living in the United States of the future, I may need them.

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Mayor, Speaker To Join Rally Protesting LAPD Behavior

Police Chief Also Plans To Attend; Deputy Chief To Retire

POSTED: 6:38 am PDT May 17, 2007

UPDATED: 11:59 am PDT May 17, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez are among those expected to join immigrant-rights activists Thursday for a march and rally to denounce the actions of Los Angeles riot police at a May Day rally at MacArthur Park.

The event will begin with a town hall-style meeting at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, followed by a 10-block procession to MacArthur Park, where organizers will hold a candlelight vigil and a series of performances.

“The LAPD denied our community both a political and physical space to nonviolently claim our rights to legalization for all undocumented immigrants and a fair immigration reform for the country,” said the event’s organizer, Mexican American Political Association President Nativo Lopez. “Political leaders and organizations throughout the country stand solidly with us.”

Due to street closures for the event, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will reroute 14 bus lines operating on and around Wilshire Boulevard between 4 and 10 p.m.

The affected bus lines are 18, 20, 21, 26, 51, 52, 200, 201, 204, 209, 352, 603, 720 and 754, according to Metro officials. Signs will be posted at affected bus stops to inform riders when and where the buses will be detoured.

Demonstrators, journalists and police officers were injured at the end of an immigration march in MacArthur Park May 1, when police tried to disperse some people who moved off the sidewalk into Alvarado Street.

Some demonstrators responded by throwing plastic bottles and rocks at officers, according to police. Officers clad in riot gear used batons and fired 146 rounds of foam-rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

A preliminary version of the LAPD’s after-action report will be heard by the full City Council on May 30. In a separate investigation, the department is checking into complaints filed by demonstrators and journalists injured during the fracas.

A third LAPD investigation is aimed at searching for those who allegedly started the confrontation by throwing rocks and plastic bottles at officers.

Separately, the Police Commission is investigating the matter, while the FBI launched a preliminary probe to determine whether the LAPD committed civil rights violations.

Police Chief William Bratton has blamed a leadership breakdown at the scene for police measures that he has described as inappropriate.

Bratton, who will be at the LAPD’s assembly area at today’s rally, according to his office, told KPCC-FM on Wednesday that the ranking officer who was in MacArthur Park during the May 1 melee has decided to retire rather than continue on home duty pending an investigation.

Bratton announced last week that Deputy Chief Cayler “Lee” Carter Jr. Carter was being demoted from deputy chief to commander and reassigned from his job as command officer of Operations Central Bureau to his home.

The chief said Wednesday that Carter has decided to retire effective June 6.

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Agreement Reached on Immigration Reform

May 17 01:41 PM US/Eastern
By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – Key senators and the White House reached agreement Thursday on an immigration overhaul that would grant quick legal status to millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S. and fortify the border. The plan would create a temporary worker program to bring new arrivals to the U.S. A separate program would cover agricultural workers. New high-tech enforcement measures also would be instituted to verify that workers are here legally.

The compromise came after weeks of painstaking closed-door negotiations that brought the most liberal Democrats and the most conservative Republicans together with President Bush’s Cabinet officers to produce a highly complex measure that carries heavy political consequences.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said he expects Bush to endorse the agreement.

The accord sets the stage for what promises to be a bruising battle next week in the Senate on one of Bush’s top non-war priorities.

The key breakthrough came when negotiators struck a bargain on a so- called “point system” that would for the first time prioritize immigrants’ education and skill level over family connections in deciding how to award green cards.

The draft bill “gives a path out of the shadows and toward legal status for those who are currently here” illegally, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

A spokesman for Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., one of his party’s key players in the talks, confirmed that the group had reached agreement.

The proposed agreement would allow illegal immigrants to come forward and obtain a “Z visa” and—after paying fees and a $5,000 fine—ultimately get on track for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. Heads of household would have to return to their home countries first.

They could come forward right away to claim a probationary card that would let them live and work legally in the U.S., but could not begin the path to permanent residency or citizenship until border security improvements and the high-tech worker identification program were completed.

A new temporary guest worker program would also have to wait until those so-called “triggers” had been activated.

Those workers would have to return home after work stints of two years, with little opportunity to gain permanent legal status or ever become U.S. citizens. They could renew their guest worker visas twice, but would be required to leave for a year in between each time.

Democrats had pressed instead for guest workers to be permitted to stay and work indefinitely in the U.S.

In perhaps the most hotly debated change, the proposed plan would shift from an immigration system primarily weighted toward family ties toward one with preferences for people with advanced degrees and sophisticated skills. Republicans have long sought such revisions, which they say are needed to end “chain migration” that harms the economy, while some Democrats and liberal groups say it’s an unfair system that rips families apart.

Family connections alone would no longer be enough to qualify for a green card—except for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens.

New limits would apply to U.S. citizens seeking to bring foreign-born parents into the country.

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Latino Groups Play Key Role on Hill

Virtual Veto Power in Immigration Debate

By Krissah Williams and Jonathan Weisman

Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 16, 2007; Page A04

When Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) declared last week that unnamed “stakeholders” would decide whether Congress overhauls immigration law this year, Latino organizations in Washington understood exactly what he meant.

After laboring in obscurity for decades, groups such as the National Council of La Raza, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Immigration Forum are virtually being granted veto power over perhaps the biggest domestic issue coming before Congress this year. Organizations that represent what is now the nation’s largest minority group are beginning to achieve power commensurate with their numbers.

“There’s a real sense that the Latino community is key to the solution in this debate, so now they are reaching out to us more than ever,” said Eric Gutierrez, lead lobbyist for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF. “Neither party wants to make a misstep politically.”

Such groups were practically in the room yesterday, maintaining contact as Democratic and Republican senators tried to hammer out a new immigration bill before a deadline set by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) for today before he moved it last night to Monday. The contours began to emerge for a bill that would couple a tightening of border controls with a guest-worker program and new avenues for an estimated 12 million undocumented workers to work legally.

Negotiators agreed yesterday that illegal immigrants would be granted a new Z Visa, allowing legal residency for eight years. During that time, the head of an undocumented household would have to temporarily go back to the home country to apply for permanent U.S. legal status for his or her family. Holders of Z Visas would then have to pay a fine and back taxes, undergo a criminal background check, and begin to work toward citizenship.

But Republicans and Democrats were still trying to bridge a deep divide over two remaining issues: Whether 400,000 foreigners entering the country as temporary workers would have to leave the country after three years or be granted a chance to stay permanently, and how extended family ties should be weighed in granting visas to those seeking to enter the country.

A deal on those tough issues could depend on the assent of Kennedy’s “stakeholders,” Democratic negotiators agreed. Democratic leaders, who are fighting for the loyalty of the fast-growing Latino electorate, have no desire to embrace legislation that could end up alienating the voters they are trying to woo.

The early word from the groups is not promising.

“Some of the proposals that are coming from the negotiations in the Senate and White House are measures that the immigrant community advocates are wholly against, particularly the elimination of some aspects of family reunification,” said William Ramos, a spokesman for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

The groups also oppose a policy that would force immigrants to return to their home countries for an extended period and to petition for reentry.

Latino organizations know well that they have muscle to flex. A bill passed by the House last year that would have made illegal immigration a felony drove millions of Latinos into the streets in cities across the country last spring.

When the current immigration law was written 21 years ago, the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, tacitly approved the legislation, even though it provided no direct path to citizenship for most temporary workers. But the Latino community was much smaller then, and illegal immigration was a regional issue, confined mostly to California, Texas and New York.

Today, U.S. citizens of Latino descent, having eclipsed African Americans as the nation’s largest minority, are far more organized and politically active. “We’re not going to let them screw it up,” said Brent A. Wilkes, LULAC’s national executive director.

LULAC, MALDEF, La Raza and the National Immigration Forum are part of a broad network of immigrant rights groups that hold nightly conference calls and strategy sessions on the legislation. The groups speak daily with top aides in Reid’s and Kennedy’s offices.

The White House, well aware that immigration may offer President Bush his last best chance at a major domestic achievement for his second term, has worked hard to keep the groups on board, even as Bush has shifted to the right with a new plan that is tougher than the proposals he embraced last year.

The White House held a meeting 2 1/2 weeks ago with Latino advocates, labor unions and civil rights organizations in which an adviser outlined an administration’s policy based on increased border security and a temporary-worker program. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez have also met with some of the groups.

“At least they are paying attention to us,” said MALDEF President John Trasviña.

The groups have also made it clear to Republicans that they are willing to press hard this year.

“Power is not handed over. To get your place at the table, you have to fight for it,” Wilkes said.

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Aside from Keith Olbermann‘s ridiculous anointing of Geraldo Rivera as “The Best Person in the World” (as opposed to his regular segment, “The Worst Person in the World” where in Bill O’Reilly regularly manages that honor) for his “noble” defense of illegal-alien Alfredo Ramos of Virginia Beach due to his successful extermination of two teenage girls in a drunk driving incident, the simple fact remains that Ramos would not have killed those young women had he not been in the country illegally in the first place.

Rivera’s deluded perception the accident had nothing to do with illegal-immigration goes beyond the pale. It at least has as much to do with illegal-immigration as it does with drunk driving. In fact, I would say it is about illegal-immigration first and driving while intoxicated second. Had our border been far more secure than it is now in its current revolving door state, Ramos might have never been allowed to enter this country illegally. He might never have made his way to Virginia Beach. He might never had decided to get drunk the night of the fatal crash. He might never have recklessly bumbled his way behind the wheel of a vehicle, and he might never have killed two innocent people as a result. Had Alfredo Ramos not been allowed to enter this country illegally, those two girls would still be alive today. It’s a simple fact that no one, not ever Geraldo Rivera can, or should deny. To do so, as he did on The O’reilly Factor last week, is shameful and deserving of scorn.

Instead, Keith Olbermann praises Rivera and such insipid statements as “illegal immigrants commit less crime than American citizens.” To Keith and Geraldo: well duh! When you have a country whose population sits at around 300 million individuals with 12 to 20 million more illegal-immigrants, it is not difficult to understand that fewer crimes are committed by illegal-aliens than infractions by legal residents. Geraldo’s case is a hasty generalization bordering tu quoque. The obvious reigns supreme–there would be less crime in this country were our borders secure, meaning there would be fewer rapists, pedophiles, murders, gang bangers, drug dealers, thieves, and drunk drivers. How difficult is that to comprehend? Obviously, for Olbermann and Rivera (and this preposterous article at Salon.com), it’s beyond comprehension.

Also last week here in Los Angeles, another ugly drunk driving incident made headlines across the country with yet another illegal-alien drunk driver, Hector Velazquez-Nava who happened to snuff out the lives of another two American citizens–this time renowned film director, Bob Clark and his 22 year-old son Ariel Hanrath-Clark. Even though Velazquez-Nava has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, he still wished to express his condolences and sorrow for their deaths. Didn’t I just mention he pleaded not guilty?

Because two high profile incidents such as these occured in a relatively short time frame, by no means should this indicate that all or most illegal-aliens are as ignorant and careless as were Ramos and Velazquez-Nava, but their cases acutely bring to light, in the most tragic of circumstances, only one reason as to why we must gain control of our southern border. Drunk drivers, regardless of citizenship status, are ticking time bombs. But if we were to competently disallow entry to a group of people who accept driving while under the influence as simply a degenerate yet acceptable aspect of their peasant culture–their “manliness” is defined by how much they can drink and not fall down, or not kill people with a car apparently–then that would rightly reduce the amount of unnecessary deaths. Is that too difficult to accept? Of course not.

There are far too many reasons as to why the illegal-alien population is detrimental to the United States, and I’ve covered those many times before throughout this site. The problem that arises from the opposition, including activists, is their lack of reasons as to why we should allow them free access, other than the fact that the wealthy, whether they’re liberals or conservatives, democrats or republicans simply want as much access to an easily exploitable labor base (i.e. modern slavery) as possible. Those who desire the unrestricted admittance of illegal-aliens only desire their exploitation without heeding the concrete consequences, even when those consequences end up killing American citizens.

If only Alfredo Ramos had been deported the first, or even the second time he’d been apprehended for DUI.

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Hispanic DWIs rooted in immigrants’ culture
Lifestyle, isolation figure in driving drunk

 

When Eliseo Hernandez came to the United States 30 years ago, he thought he drove better after a few beers. Driving drunk had been normal back in Mexico, he said. But Hernandez, 54, learned of its perils firsthand. He quit the practice after falling asleep at the wheel and hitting a tree 18 years ago.Then, last year, a young Hispanic man who authorities say was drunk nearly killed Hernandez’s only son, Diego, in a crash on a rural Johnston County road. Eliseo Hernandez’s daughter, who was nine months pregnant, lost her unborn child in the accident.

Hernandez has spent the past year following Diego through four hospitals and 14 brain surgeries. Diego only recently began to smile again and might never walk.

Hernandez said he hopes his painful journey will teach his friends and family a lesson. Car accidents are the top killer of Hispanics in North Carolina, and the disproportionate number of alcohol-related arrests and wrecks are an embarrassment to a minority already beleaguered by hard feelings over illegal immigration.

“It makes the Mexicans look bad, very bad,” Hernandez said. “The American people say ‘Oh, it’s just another Hispanic, the same as the others.’ ”

In 2005, there were 37 alcohol-related crashes caused by Hispanic drivers for every 10,000 Hispanics in the state, according to the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. That is more than three times the rate of alcohol-related crashes among non-Hispanics.

Hispanic leaders are struggling to stem a problem that they say is rooted in the waves of young men who leave the calming influences of church and family to labor alone in a new country.

“It’s difficult because you’re trying to compete with the loneliness,” said Tony Asion, public safety director for El Pueblo, an Hispanic advocacy group. “Then, as some learn, more come, and we start again.”

Carnage continues

Last month, a Johnston County father and son died in a fiery crash authorities say was caused by Luciano Tellez, 31, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. Dwane Braswell, 35, and his son Jerry, 9, were riding in a tractor-trailer cab on N.C. 210 in the Cleveland community of Johnston County when Tellez struck the tractor and rolled it into a ditch, where it caught fire.

Empty beer cans were found in Tellez’ car, but authorities say it is impossible to know whether he was drunk.

It was the latest in a string of such accidents caused by Hispanic men. In February in Salisbury, a woman who was eight months pregnant and her unborn child were killed. In October, it was two college students and a high school boy. In January 2006, a man from El Salvador killed a Hillsborough woman in a head-on crash and fled, leaving an injured passenger in his own car.

Researchers say drunken driving among Hispanics is at least partially explained by demographics. As in many places where immigration is fairly recent, the Hispanic population in North Carolina is young and dominated by men — both factors that make them statistically more likely to drive drunk.

Men in their 20s and 30s made up more than half the people charged with DWI statewide in the year ending last July. Nearly 40 percent of North Carolina Hispanics were 21- to 39-year-old men in 2005, according to census estimates. This same age range accounted for only 18 percent of blacks and 16 percent of whites.

Bobby Dunn, who counsels Spanish-speaking DWI convicts in Johnston and Wilson counties, said his clients are often young men far from home with money in their pockets for the first time. Many were too poor to have cars in Mexico, so they have little experience behind the wheel.

They also see drinking as a way of showing their manhood.

“The magic number is 12,” Dunn said, or “un doce” in Spanish. “If you can drink 12 beers, you’re a man.”

Others say heavy drinking is part of a lifestyle dominated by long work days building homes, painting or picking crops.

Walking down Buck Jones Road to his apartment in West Raleigh, Alberto Gonzalez figured he would drink most of the 12-pack he had just bought that night, even though it was a weeknight.

Gonzalez, 29, said he hadn’t given much thought to spending a night without a beer in hand. “I just sit and drink,” he said. “Maybe a friend will come by. Other than work, this is what I do.”

Hernandez was part of an early wave of young men who came to North Carolina to pick tobacco. There were so few Hispanics in North Carolina then, he said, he couldn’t find a store that sold hot peppers or corn tortillas.

He had been a drinker in Mexico, he said, but it got worse in the United States. He didn’t have a family to tend to, and he felt very alone in a place where no one understood him.

“When you are young, you don’t think anything will happen to you,” he said. “When you have a family, you care more about your life.”

In fact, the increasing number of Hispanic women and children in North Carolina may explain why the prevalence of drunken-driving accidents and arrests among Hispanics has not grown with the population.

By some measures, DWI accidents and citations among Hispanics are actually diminishing.

Hispanics made up 18 percent of the 75,000 DWI arrests last year, while they accounted for 6 percent of the population. The portion of DWI citations going to Hispanics has crept up slightly since 2000, even as the growth in the state’s Hispanic population has outpaced overall population growth by more than 500 percent.

Since 2000, alcohol-related crashes among Hispanics have dropped from 9 percent of all crashes that involve Hispanics to 7 percent.

The pressure to reverse the trend is intense. Each fatality brings calls for deportations and tighter immigration controls.

Luke Steele, 49, adds up the deaths and sees a growing problem that stems from immigration. He said his daughter lost her college roommate to a Hispanic drunken driver in October.

Steele, a longtime fire rescue worker, also remembers a 1991 wreck in which a teenage girl was killed by an illegal immigrant who “skipped town before the case ever went to trial.”

“We’ve still got plenty of stupid white, black, pink and purple people that drive drunk. That’s plenty to go around,” he said. “The reality is if they weren’t here, they could not kill people [while] driving drunk.”

After the March wreck in Johnston County, U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, a Charlotte Republican, reintroduced a bill that would require the deportation of all immigrants convicted of drunken driving.

And anti-immigration groups have seized on the issue as an effective marketing strategy for their cause.

“The effect on the labor force is real, but it’s indirect,” said Mark Krikorian, director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which favors tighter controls on immigration. “Whereas, an illegal alien who drives drunk and kills some newlywed couple is tangible.”

Asion, who leads El Pueblo’s effort to curb drunken driving, works to separate the DWI problem from the immigration debate.

Many Hispanics have not grown up with anti-drunken-driving messages, and it will take time for the ideas to take hold.

“It’s not something that you can do easily,” Asion said. “If it was, then the U.S. population would have already done it.”

News

Hispanics wary of fallout from deadly crash in Virginia Beach

Manuel Ayala, at right, has been in the United States nearly 20 years. He said many people automatically assume he's an illegal immigrant. Now,
Manuel Ayala, at right, has been in the United States nearly 20 years. He said many people automatically assume he’s an illegal immigrant. Now, “the discrimination, it’s going to show more,” said Ayala, owner of San Jose Mexican Mini Mart. STEPHEN M. KATZ/THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT

By GILLIAN GAYNAIR, The Virginian-Pilot
© April 7, 2007
VIRGINIA BEACH – Because one Hispanic person is accused of causing a tragic accident, Monica Restrepo said, she now frets that many will be judged and be the brunt of insults.

“We’re very worried about what’s going to happen to all of us in the community,” said Restrepo, who owns the decade-old La Tapatia, believed to be one of the first Latin American grocery stores in the city.

Restrepo and other local Hispanics this week expressed their sympathy for the families of two Virginia Beach girls killed in a car crash March 30. But they also couldn’t mask their concern over a possible backlash against both legal and illegal immigrants.

They fear that because of Alfredo Ramos, people will categorize all Hispanics as drunken drivers and unauthorized immigrants. Ramos, 22, is charged with aggravated involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Alison Kunhardt, 17, and Tessa Tranchant, 16. He had a record of three alcohol-related convictions in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake and had entered the country from Mexico illegally.

Many Hispanics said the public response to the incident has been incorrectly centered on Ramos’ immigration status instead of on drunken-driving laws and penalties.

“When someone has committed a crime, it doesn’t matter what legal status they have, what ethnic group – you’ve committed a crime,” said Mavel Velasco Muñoz, chairwoman of the Hispanic Leadership Forum of Hampton Roads. “We are not condoning it,” but, she said, the public is wrongly lumping together immigration issues and DUI laws.

Beatriz Amberman, a Virginia Beach resident and vice chairwoman of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations, agreed.

“I wonder how many people are driving under the influence of alcohol and have been let go with a slap on the hand… and whether the system is actually working in that regard,” she said. “Rather than that… because of this one individual, we’re judging all undocumented workers.”

The tragedy gained national attention Wednesday through Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” when host Bill O’Reilly blamed the city of Virginia Beach and accused local officials of providing sanctuary to illegal immigrants. O’Reilly and TV personality Geraldo Rivera traded verbal punches on Thursday (video).

Locally, rumors swirled Friday among some Hispanics that federal immigration authorities were coming to Virginia Beach to raid establishments that employ illegal immigrants.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington said that such rumors are no t surprising, given the amount of attention the Ramos case has received.

“I can’t tell you that no investigation is going on, because that’s something we do on a daily basis,” Ernestine Fobbs said. “I can’t confirm or deny whether we have an active investigation going on at this time. It’s not something that we’d reveal.”

Ramos had worked briefly at Mi Casita restaurant on Bonney Road, according to Gary C. Byler, an attorney representing El Toro Loco Inc., the corporation that owns Mi Casita. Byler said Ramos was told not to come back to work when his documents appeared to be invalid. He was not working at the restaurant at the time of the car crash, Byler said.

It wasn’t unusual to see Ramos and other employees walking along Bonney Road and visiting establishments in Thalia Village Shoppes, business owners there said.

In the week after the car crash, there has been less foot traffic overall, said Junior Garcia, who owns La Tienda International Foods and Mi Tierra Restaurant.

Garcia said that since the incident, he has also noticed more police in the area and suspected that “we’ll probably have more police officers stopping Latinos on looks.”

Like others, Garcia was concerned about the response to the tragedy.

“I haven’t heard once that it was an accident,” he said. “White people also drink. I feel people have blown out of proportion his status and where he’s from. It could have been anybody.”

While he and his friends talked about the Ramos case at Mi Orgullo Latin Accessories in the same plaza, Jonathan Rodriguez wondered whether there would be such a public outcry had an intoxicated white citizen been accused in the girls’ deaths.

“Now they want to punish every Latin person out there,” he said. “Now it’s going to be harder for us…. You could be a citizen, but they’re still going to hate you.”

Local Hispanic leaders say they hope to turn the tragedy into an opportunity to educate more people about the dangers of drunken driving, push for tougher penalties for it and work for immigration laws that can be respected as fair.

Amberman, of the Coalition of Latino Organizations, said she is worried that “people want to look at only one side of the picture.”

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