Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are blaming sanctuary city policies for the death of an undocumented couple who died in a crash while being chased by federal immigration agents—despite the fact that they were only being pursued because of a case of mistaken identity. In addition, a police report claims ICE agents gave contradictory statements about the incident.
The couple, identified as Santos Hilario Garcia and Marcelina Garcia Profecto, were killed in a March 13 car crash while allegedly attempting to flee ICE. They left behind six children.
ICE later admitted that it had pursued the wrong suspects. But on Tuesday, an ICE spokesperson blamed sanctuary policies, at least partially, for the crash, not the ICE officers who reportedly chased the couple for no reason.
“Sanctuary policies, which have pushed ICE out of jails, force our officers to conduct more enforcement in the community - which poses increased risks for law enforcement and the public,” ICE’s Richard A. Rocha told Splinter.
ICE officials lately have claimed sanctuary policies leave them with no other choice than to arrest people at home or work. But that’s simply not true. ICE can arrest anyone it wants when they’re released from jail, as long as it has a warrant signed by a judge.
But that’s beside the point in this case, because the ICE agents were chasing the wrong couple.
According to a police report obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the ICE agents were told they could leave the scene but they stayed and waited “for the male passenger to be identified, so they could determine whether he was the person they were pursuing.”
The report also says that the agents made statements that “contradict with the surveillance [video] review conducted.” One of the ICE deportation officers initially told the local Delano Police Department that he was not in “pursuit with emergency lights/sirens,” according to the Times. But surveillance footage obtained by the police department “showed that one of two cars driven by the deportation officers had its front and rear emergency lights activated and the second had its rear emergency lights activated,” the paper wrote.
ICE spokesman Rocha maintained in his statement that the ICE agents were not pursuing the couple “at the time of the accident.” He did not respond directly to Splinter’s request for comment about the “contradictions” in the police report, but said this “isolated and extremely unfortunate incident” was being reviewed.
The couple who died in the crash were both farmworkers. Diana Tellefson Torres, executive director of the United Farm Workers Foundation, told Splinter the group had received multiple reports of ICE agents staking out roads farmworkers use to travel to work. ICE agents in the Delano area have also reportedly been pulling drivers over without any “lawful basis, resulting in numerous unlawful arrests of residents,” according to a statement issued by the ACLU of Southern California.