A husband and wife in California’s Central Valley were killed in a car crash on Tuesday after being chased by federal immigration agents—who later admitted that the couple had been targeted by mistake.
Immigration officials identified the couple who died in the crash as Santos Hilario Garcia, 35 and his wife, Marcelina Garcia Profecto, 31.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents driving an unmarked car started following the couple’s SUV after they saw “a male matching the target’s description” leave the home they were targeting and enter the car, an ICE spokesperson told local station KBAK.
ICE admitted late Wednesday that Garcia “was not the man ICE agents were looking to arrest,” according to 17 News.
The couple killed in the crash were farmworkers on their way to work in the fields just before 7 AM, according to family members who spoke with 17 News.
In a statement, ICE said that the driver initially pulled over when the agents “activated emergency equipment” but allegedly sped away when he realized ICE agents were in the car. “As the officers departed the location of the attempted engagement, they came across the overturned vehicle and immediately dialed 911 for assistance,” the statement continued.
After the ICE spokesperson admitted officers chased the wrong person, they went on to point out Garcia had a DUI on his record and had previously been deported three times between 2008 and 2017. His wife did not have any previous interaction with ICE, according to the statement.
The advocacy organization Farmworker Justice estimates that 50 to 75% of America’s two million farmworkers are undocumented. The Department of Labor’s calculations are slightly lower, estimating that 46% of the farmworker workforce is undocumented.
Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants’ rights at the ACLU of Southern California said in a statement that her office has received “numerous reports” from the Central Valley reporting ICE agents are staking out on roads farmworkers typically use to get to work. Pasquarella said ICE is pulling farmworkers over in unmarked vehicles.
The couple leaves six children behind.