"Where you from?"
An illegal alien from Mexico, Pedro Espinoza, allegedly asked that of Jamiel Shaw Jr., 17 -- before Espinoza shot and killed him.
Shaw, a promising high-school student athlete wooed by Stanford and Rutgers, was gunned down at 8:40 p.m. just three doors from his Los Angeles home, where his father, Jamiel Shaw Sr., awaited his arrival from the mall. Shaw's mother, Anita, learned the news of her son's March 2 shooting death while serving as an Army sergeant in Iraq.
Edwin Ramos, an illegal alien from El Salvador, on June 22 allegedly gunned down and killed Tony Bologna and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16. The Bologna family, coming back from a barbecue in their SUV, apparently blocked Ramos' car in a San Francisco intersection. According to reports, after the Bologna vehicle backed up and let the Ramos car pass by, Ramos allegedly opened fire on the family.
The common factor in these killings, as with so many others: The alleged killers came to the country illegally. Federal officials estimate that 40,000 of the 170,000 inmates held in Los Angeles County jails each year are illegal immigrants. And in the cases of Espinoza and Ramos, the police had previously arrested each and -- for reasons that remain unclear -- the authorities either never referred the arrested alien to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation or ICE failed to institute deportation proceedings.
Before Shaw's murder, Espinoza had been arrested by Culver City police and served time in a Los Angeles County jail for assault with a deadly weapon. Jamiel Shaw was killed the day after Espinoza's release from jail.
Five years ago, 17-year-old Ramos was convicted and sent to a juvenile shelter for severely beating a suspected rival gang member. After serving a few months, Ramos was released to his mother for probation. Four days after that, he attempted to mug a pregnant woman. Ramos was convicted of attempted robbery and sent to a juvenile camp.
After Ramos turned 18, federal authorities learned of his illegal status when he applied -- and was rejected -- for legal residency. The illegal alien then married a U.S. citizen and applied for permanent residency -- the case still pending when the Bolognas were killed.
Three months before the Bologna murders, Ramos was stopped in the notorious Tenderloin district, and his passenger tried to dispose of a handgun that had been used in a double murder the day before. Ramos was arrested on felony weapons charges, as well as membership in a criminal street gang. Three days after his arrest, Ramos was freed when city prosecutors declined to file charges against him. And ICE did not ask about Ramos' immigration status until after he was released.
Retired San Francisco Police Capt. Tim Hettrich says San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong told him, "You are not to work with these (federal) people," and it was "common knowledge" in the department that "you were not to do anything with ICE or immigration and illegals, whether or not they committed a crime -- even to arrest them -- because there will be the perception we are harassing illegals."
I recently interviewed Brian DeMore, field office director for ICE detention and removal operations in Los Angeles. DeMore declined to speculate about why the alleged killer of the Bolognas, Ramos, remained on the streets. But he agreed that Shaw's killer, Pedro Espinoza, should have remained in custody and referred to ICE.
Elder: It seems to me what's supposed to happen is as follows: Someone gets arrested. There's an inquiry made by local law enforcement -- police or county -- about this person's immigration status. The immigration status is not clarified to the satisfaction of the local law enforcement. Therefore, this person should remain in jail until such time as the local law enforcement is satisfied that this person is -- or is not -- an illegal alien.
DeMore: Absolutely. At that point, that local police department would call ICE, or we would make contact with them under Secure Communities because we would receive an electronic notification that they've got someone in custody. We have an incredibly large task ahead of us. We could always use more individuals. But we are leveraging technology to overcome some of those shortfalls. The interoperability -- where our data will seamlessly integrate with the FBI's, and anyone who makes a query with biometric data or through fingerprints is going to be identified -- will be revolutionary and groundbreaking. We are claiming that within 3 1/2 years, we will be able to interview, detain and remove 100 percent of the Level 1 violators (those convicted of major drug or violent offenses), with Levels 2 (minor drug or property offenses) and 3 (other offenses) falling into line shortly thereafter.
Small comfort to the families of Jamiel Shaw and Tony, Michael and Matthew Bologna.