There has been outrage in the local communities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk and other surrounding Virginia and North Carolina communities over the alleged drunk driving of an illegal immigrant who killed two innocent teenagers who were sitting at a red light in Virginia Beach on the night of March 30, 2007.
Alfred Ramos, 22, who is an illegal alien from Mexico, was previously convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol in 2006. However, as seems to be a repeat theme in drunk driving cases, having the conviction did not keep Mr. Ramos from simply getting behind the wheel of a car after a night of drinking-and his status as an illegal alien repeat offender made things worse. Now two completely innocent teenage girls are dead because of his drunk driving.
Mr. Ramos, smashed his 1998 Mitsubishi car into the rear of a 1994 Plymouth driven by Allison Kunhardt, age 17. Her best friend, Tessa Tranchant, age 16, was a passenger in the vehicle that was simply stopped at a traffic light when they were struck from behind by Ramos. Despite the fact that both teenagers wore their seatbelts, they were killed – one at the scene and the other after arriving at the hospital.
Mr. Ramos has been charged with manslaughter by the Virginia Beach prosecutors, and evidence shows that he was convicted in 2006 of public drunkenness in Virginia Beach and also was convicted of DUI in Chesapeake, Virginia, all while in the country illegally. But who knew??
A national firestorm of controversy has been set off, not only in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, and the surrounding communities, but nationally because Fox News has highlighted the fact that Mr. Ramos was an illegal immigrant and had two previous convictions before the outrageous drunk driving offense that killed the girls. Fox News (through Bill O’Reilly) accused Virginia Beach police and local officials of being lax on illegal immigrants and an immigrant “sanctuary.” Fox wondered why a person convicted of two prior offenses was not deported because he was illegally in the United States in the first place.
Virginia Beach’s mayor, Meyera Obendorf had to appear at several press conferences to defend Virginia Beach’s reasons for not having learned of Mr. Ramos’ illegal status, and she was even ambused by a Fox News reporter in her driveway. Virginia Beach, like many other cities, apparently had a policy that in connection with misdemeanor offenses, it does not run background checks for immigration status as it has been found to inhibit people from providing factual information in investigations (for obvious reasons, illegal aliens will not come forward!).. Apparently, many cities nationwide have adopted the same policy because it fosters cooperation with police in investigating crimes. However, as the case highlights, this policy needs to be examined with respect to offenses by offenders-it is a policy that should not protect the offenders themselves, as opposed to witnesses to potential crimes.
The mayor has stated that it is not the city’s job to enforce American borders.
In further Fox broadcasts, Geraldo Rivera told Bill O’Reilly, “It has nothing to do with illegal aliens, it has to do with drunk driving and I think you owe that mayor an apology.” Don’t hold your breath, Geraldo! O’Reilly wants ratings and could care less about the underlying truth that this is about drunk driving repeat offenders, not immigration!
Virginia Beach Police Chief Jake Jacocks said it is not the Virginia Beach Police’s policy to question the immigration status of people they meet except in serious circumstances, such as felonies. He said immigration enforcement is a federal job.
As for the earlier arrest in Chesapeake, Virginia, Chesapeake Police say they never contacted immigration officials after his arrest for drunk driving (DUI/DWI) in their city, even though they knew he had no social security number, no license, nothing but an illegal ID.
The arresting officer commented in his official report that Ramos “almost ran him down”. Ramos was given a 90 day suspended sentence, fined $250, had his drivers’ license suspended, and ordered to participate in ASAP, an alcohol awareness program.
Court documents also revealed that Ramos didn’ t actually have a valid driver’s license (he was caught with a fake one), had paid a Florida company $200 dollars for a “Mexican ID”, and he blown a .14 BAC – almost twice the legal limit.
Chesapeake’s spokesperson, Christy Golden, says part of the problem is getting ICE (Immigration) agents to respond and react when police call. She says the Chesapeake Police Department is now looking into setting up a new policy regarding illegal immigrants.Virginia Beach Police say even though Ramos was also previously charged with an alcohol related misdemeanor in their city, State law advises local police they can only contact ICE/Immigration if they are arresting a suspected illegal immigrant on a felony, like rape or murder, or if they’re invovled in gang activity, or have been deported before.
In fact, Virginia Beach Police say they will not even ask a suspected illegal immigrant about their status.
“It could be possibly a violation of their civil rights to ask if they are an illegal alien or not,” spokesperson Jimmy Barnes said.
O’Reilly said he plans on making a continuing example of Virginia Beach and said Mayor Meyera Oberndorf should be fired, but he is patently grandstanding to keep his show’s ratings up on this obviously touchy subject.
O’Reilly also said that Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is doing nothing to enforce immigration. Huh? A spokesperson for the Virginia governor said that job is supposed to be handled at the federal level-as a matter of fact only the federal government handles official immigration issues, such as deportation. Remember that agency called the I.N.S. or I.C.E.?
The biggest problem is not the illegal immigrant status, but the repeat drunk driving offenses that injure or kill thousands around the United States, including citizens in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and all the surrounding communities in Virginia and elsewhere.
Drunk driving is the cause of many personal injuries and deaths and our law firm ( (see http://www.HSInjurylaw.com ) has represented many persons who have been seriously injured because of a drunk driver’s failure to turn over their keys to a friend, or to take a taxi cab–rather than driving while obviously intoxicated. Repeat offenders need to have enhanced punishments and significant jail time for operating a vehicle while intoxicated after having received a conviction for DUI. This particular horrible local Virginia Beach tragedy is about drinking and driving, make no mistake. The secondary issues about illegal alien status is important, but not one that led to the deaths of the these teenagers. Hopefully, meaningful federal reforms will occur to make clear what our country will do with illegal aliens already in our country–but being illegally here in Virginia Beach did not make Ramos drive while totally intoxicated, just stupidity and ignoring the law did. Hopefully, he will pay with loss of his freedom for a very long time. Jail for him is not a solution, but the best our system can do under the circumstances.