Friday, August 5, 2011
Obummer's Prosecutorial Discretion
Prince William County files suit over illegal immigration case
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. --
Prince William County filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Department of Homeland Security seeking information about thousands of illegal immigrants the county has turned over to the department.
In 2007 the Prince William Board of County Supervisors passed an ordinance that requires county police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest.
If police find that they have arrested someone who is in the country illegally, they turn that person over to the department for deportation.
To date the county has turned over more than 4,000 people to DHS, according to a county press release.
After Carlos Martinelly Montano, 23, was charged in August 2010 with killing a Benedictine nun while driving drunk in Prince William County, county officials became concerned that DHS was releasing illegal immigrants back into the community.
Police records show that Montano was previously convicted of drunken driving, identified as an illegal immigrant, handed over to DHS for deportation, subsequently released and was then given an employment authorization card, according to the release.
When county officials discovered Montano’s record and learned that the department had failed to deport him, they became concerned that other criminal illegal immigrants may also have been released.
After the crash, the county made two separate Freedom of Information Act requests seeking records that disclosed the disposition of people police had turned over to the department.
The requests went unanswered, so the county sued the department.
Police say that Montano was driving the car that crashed into a car carrying three nuns, killing Sister Denise Mosier, 66, and seriously injuring fellow nuns Charlotte Lange, 75, and Connie Ruth Lupton, 70.
The nuns lived in Richmond, but were associated with the Linton Hall School in Bristow, which is operated by the Benedictine Sisters Monastery, and also associated with St. Gertrude’s in Richmond.
At the time of the accident Montano, of 12760 Merrymont Lane in Bristow, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, drunken driving as a third offense in five years and felony driving on a revoked license.
Montano was later charged with felony murder, according to court records. If convicted, he could face up to 40 years in prison.
Montano is scheduled for a six-day jury trial beginning Oct. 31.
Prince William County Chairman Corey A. Stewart said this is the second time the county has sued the department over.
In March, the county sued to get the department to turn over facts surrounding the Montano case.
This most recent lawsuit is for information regarding other illegal immigrants who have been handed over to the department, Stewart said.
“We wanted to know how it was they released Montano. Now we’re suing them over the disposition of the other 4,000 illegals that we’ve handed over to them since 2007,” Stewart said.
The latest lawsuit is a much more significant case, Stewart said.
While the county was seeking information on Montano, Stewart said, the department cited the Privacy Act of 1974 and said that illegal immigrants have a right to privacy. Stewart said that the department maintained that that right to privacy precluded the department from releasing information on Montano.
“It does not apply to illegal immigrants,” Stewart said of the Privacy Act. “It only applies to citizens and permanent residents of the United States.”
Stewart said he was “very confident” of a “favorable outcome” in the present case.
The department disclosed information related to the Montano case once the county sued, Stewart said.
Stewart said the county shouldn’t have to sue to get information.
“What’s frustrating is that this isn’t just the Obama administration. This is also the Republican-led Congress which has completely refused to help us out on this. They’ve done nothing different from the administration or the previous Democratic Congress in terms of helping us enforce immigration law and have illegal immigrants that commit crimes deported,” Stewart said. “I’m very disappointed in my own party.”
Senior reporter Keith Walker can be reached at 703-369-6751.