Illegal Immigrants, A Costly Problem

Thursday, March 1st 2007, 9:48 am

By: News On 6

The U.S. Department of Justice recently audited 100 illegal immigrants arrested for criminal activity in 2004. Results showed 73 of them re-offended a total of 429 times. The Justice Department calls them ‘criminal aliens.’

During the year of the audit, there were more than 260,000 'criminal aliens' in America. Too often, results showed local authorities "catch and release" 'criminal aliens,' without contacting immigration officials.

News On 6 anchor Tami Marler says there are more than 12 million illegal immigrants in America. The vast majority of them come to work and support their families. As with any group, there will be exceptions.

With two grown kids and JC heading off to college in a few years, Robin and Randy Burger were looking forward to the future until Robin got a call from an ER nurse, just after Christmas. "She had to let me know that my husband had been in a car accident and I said 'Is he okay?' and I just knew," says Robin Burger. Robin says she couldn't breathe when she learned she'd lost her husband of 28 years, the Burger family's rock. "He was real. He was a real person. He believed in the Lord and he believed in certain values and people that knew him knew that.”

“From my understanding, the police report said the vehicle was coming down the feeder road here, ran the stop sign," says Bruce Delay. Delay says Randy was one of the best men he's ever known so he learned all he could about the man, Tulsa Police say sped through a stop sign and killed his friend. Bruce Delay adds, "his name is Gregorio Rodriguez. He was booked into the county jail and was charged with negligent homicide." Rodriguez is currently free on bond.

Records show his public defender filed a pauper's affidavit, which would waive Rodriguez's legal costs, including a court-appointed interpreter. His attorney could not comment on the case, or Rodriguez's immigration status. "I have determined to follow this case through to the end because I'm seeing and hearing too much about illegal aliens causing accidents without drivers license, no insurance, things like that. They could very well be wanted felons who have committed some very serious crimes, including murder," says Bruce Delay.

Jim Gilchrist brought his MinuteMan Project message to Tulsa recently with a warning for cities that fail to enforce immigration law. "If you do not enforce those laws, even if you don't have a budget allocated for it, it will cost you dearly."

The News On 6 went through more than 100 records and found dozens of suspects who have several aliases, or fake identification, or none at all. Are they here illegally? The News On 6 learned that Tulsa Police are not even allowed to ask. In an effort to enhance trust in the community, Tulsa Police officers cannot enforce federal immigration law. They may request documentation for identification purposes only. Tulsa Police say even "legal" immigrants are reluctant to cooperate in criminal investigations if they fear deportation. Jim Gilchrist says sanctuary policies fail the public. "We had 15 times the deaths since 9-11 at the hands of illegal aliens in the United States than we have had at the hands of insurgents in Iraq."

Jesus Hernandez is in the Tulsa jail on two murder charges. Records show Hernandez was convicted in 2000 for driving-while-impaired, without lights, license or insurance. He received a suspended sentence, then accumulated three aliases, three more convictions with deferred or suspended sentences. Last year, an arrest warrant was issued when Hernandez violated the terms of his latest deal. Within months, Tulsa Police say Hernandez stabbed to death a young woman and her unborn child in a Tulsa apartment complex. Seven years in and out of jails and courtrooms, it took two murder charges to warrant an immigration hold.

"This is a great tool for the taxpayers in Tulsa," says Tulsa County Undersheriff Brian Edwards. Edwards says cases like Hernandez's will change when the Tulsa County Sheriff's office achieves 287(g) status. Federally funded training will allow deputies and jailers to enforce immigration law. "The deputies would have the ability to go through the process of placing detainers and beginning the deportation process for that particular individual."

"I've seen a lot of positive things come from his death and I'm looking for those positive things. I don't want it to be in vain," says Robin Burger. Robin says she and her children find comfort in knowing Randy's in heaven. Still, they miss his steady guidance. "Him being there to tell ya how to do stuff when you don't know how. Oh yeah he could do anything he wanted to if he set his mind to it. You think you can too? If I try," says Randy’s son JC Burger.

The News On 6 spoke with some immigrant advocates who said no one approves of criminal activity, whether the suspect is in the country legally or illegally.
Opponents of 287(g) fear law enforcement would use it as an excuse to racially profile. Jurisdictions that have already implemented it say they've seen a decrease in crime, especially driving-related offenses.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office should be enforcing immigration law sometime in the summer.

To find out more about the Minuteman Project, click here.

For information about the U.S. Department of Justice and 287(g), click here.

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