It turns out that as a legal immigrant with "temporary protected status," Galo was eligible for a California driver's license. He just never got one. After his car was impounded, he paid a $220 fine and walked away. That's chump change. The fine for driving illegally in a car pool lane is $481.
More proof the city doesn't take driving without a license seriously: A judge reduced the felony manslaughter charge to a misdemeanor. A jury found Galo guilty of manslaughter and driving without a license. His sentence: six months in prison, three years' probation.
Rosenberg told me, "(By that time), my wife and I really didn't care if he was sentenced to a day. Our focus became: Convict him of the two misdemeanors, and deport him. That's a worse punishment than whether he spends a couple of months in jail." In that Galo returned American hospitality with a readiness to flout American law, deportation seemed both just and in the interest of public safety.
Then came the next body blow. Rosenberg asked Rep. Henry Waxman's office to make sure Galo would be deported. Waxman aides tell me that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told them that Galo was guilty of only one crime of moral turpitude -- manslaughter.
Rosenberg fears ICE is going to let Galo stay.
"It basically shows that the Obama administration is looking for reasons to allow people to stay here even if they have committed offenses that are dangerous to the public," said Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports tougher enforcement. In an attempt to protect illegal immigrants, the administration is "bending over backward to find ways to allow even people who've committed dangerous traffic offenses to stay here when they should be deported."
There's "no question that what happened to the Rosenberg family was tragic," Public Defender Jeff Adachi told me.
It's more than tragic. Rosenberg sees the city's policy as a green light for bad drivers. He believes that Gascon has more zeal for throwing the book at offenders who deliver positive headlines and less zeal when lawbreakers are immigrants.
Gascon spokesman Alex Bastian responded: "Many drivers make bad decisions. Some are licensed, and some are unlicensed. Unfortunately, in this tragic situation, someone died, and as a result, we prosecuted the defendant for it. We took the case to trial and secured a verdict of guilty, and the defendant was sentenced to jail as a result."
Thing is, an unlicensed driver, by definition, is more culpable -- and more dangerous.
"Not that I would agree that 'driving without a license isn't a big deal, so you shouldn't get deported,'" Rosenberg exclaimed, "but in this case, someone killed someone -- and you don't think it's a big deal?"
Email Debra J. Saunders at email@example.com. To find out more about Debra J. Saunders and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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