By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Mexican national charged in a San Diego, California, car crash that badly injured a 6-year-old boy was in the country illegally and had been deported at least 15 times, U.S. immigration officials said on Wednesday.
Constantino Banda-Acosta was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents about a mile from the two-car collision that took place at about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday in the San Ysidro neighborhood of San Diego, near the border with Mexico.
Banda-Acosta, 38, has been charged with hit-and-run causing great bodily injury, driving under the influence of alcohol and driving without a license. Local media reported that he pleaded not guilty during a brief initial court appearance on Wednesday.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement that it has lodged a detainer against Banda-Acosta seeking to take him into custody if and when he is released by local authorities.
"Department of Homeland Security databases indicate Mr. Banda-Acosta has been repatriated to Mexico at least 15 times since 2002, most recently in January 2017," ICE said in the statement.
A San Diego County public defender who represented Banda-Acosta at the court hearing on Wednesday could not be reached by Reuters for comment. A jail website listed Banda-Acosta as being held in lieu of a $230,000 bond.
According to the Border Patrol, Banda-Acosta was arrested after agents who came across the crash found him and a passenger in a damaged Chevrolet pick-up truck that matched the description of the vehicle involved.
The agents arrested both men, the Border Patrol said. Banda-Acosta's passenger, who was not identified, was being processed for removal from the United States, the agency said.
The San Diego Union Tribune newspaper reported that Banda-Acosta was accused of speeding through a stop-sign and striking a Honda accord carrying a family returning home from a trip to Disneyland.
The Border Patrol said that multiple people were injured in the crash. The Union Tribune reported that the 6-year-old boy, who it identified as Lennox Lake, suffered a skull fracture and required surgery.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Leslie Adler)