Immigration back in spotlight after officer's death
HOUSTON We first told you on Tuesday that the suspect, Johoan Rodriguez, had been deported twice in the past. Since then, we've learned he's had encounters with Houston police, but in each case he was let go. Two of the last six Houston police officers killed in the line of duty died at the hands of an accused drunk driver who was in this country illegally. This latest tragedy has reignited the debate over our state's immigration laws and what should be done about them. On the eve of Houston Police Officer Kevin Will's funeral, 26-year-old Johoan Rodriguez, the illegal immigrant and suspected drunk driver accused in his death, appeared in court. "It wasn't any easier today than it was the other night. It's been a hard process, it was a hard scene to go up and work. It's difficult to see your friend out there like that," said HPD Officer Don Egdorf. We checked and found Rodriguez had obtained a valid Texas driver's license in 2007 after he'd been deported twice and refused entry once. That was before the 2008 law requiring an applicant to provide proof of citizenship or legal status. We've also learned Rodriguez was stopped by Houston police three times in 2009 for traffic violations. Police would have discovered his status had he been arrested and booked into the city jail -- that's where fingerprints are run through local, state and federal databases. In the past year and five months, 948 non-citizens have been charged with DWI in Harris County. For the majority, it was their first offense. The figures are based on consulate notifications, so it doesn't speak to their legal status, only that they are citizens of another country. "That is something I would expect to be a part of a file just like any identifiers on any suspect that comes in, but it's not something that's maintained. There is no database that we maintain with that information," said Harris County Assistant District Attorney Catherine Evans. On Wednesday, state lawmakers in Austin continue to press for an immigration enforcement bill that gives Texas police officers the right to ask people about their immigration status. Houston Mayor Annise Parker called on the federal government to take action. "Until we have effective control of our borders we just churn folks through the system and that's the frustrating part," said Mayor Parker. "I don't need more tools. I need our federal government to secure our borders, not to pass the buck to cities and expect cities to fix what is a federal problem." The so-called sanctuary cities bill has been one of the most controversial issues before the legislature this year. "This is not about racism or anti-immigrant status, this is about law and order. This is about life; this is about protecting our streets and our homes and businesses," State Sen. Dan Patrick told us over the phone. Democrats have fiercely opposed the measure and so have groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Members believe it would foster distrust towards the police among the immigrant community and force illegal immigrants who've been victims of crime into silence. Congressman Ted Poe agrees with Mayor Parker and says it is the federal government's responsibility to secure the border. He introduced legislation to put 10,000 more National Guard troops on the border. "The border patrol is doing as good of a job as it can. I think we need National Guard troops on the border, and let me be clear, they need to be on the border and not behind the border," Congressman Poe said over the phone. Another Houston-area state lawmaker, Republican State Rep. John Culberson, gave a one-minute speech on the house floor on Wednesday and said he will not rest until the Mexican border is secured.
More TOP STORIES News