Cindy Tracy is not impressed with proposed legislation from Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., that would make a third conviction for driving while intoxicated a deportable offense for an immigrant.
The man accused of killing her 16-year-old daughter, Kelly, in a November car crash in Gilbert had one prior DUI conviction. He admitted to police that he had been in the country illegally for 14 years.
"Three is way too many," said Tracy, whose 17-year-old son was also injured in the crash near Guadalupe and Sossaman roads as he and Kelly were on their way to the Gilbert Days Parade as part of Highland High School's marching band.
"You're just waiting for him to kill someone or lots of someones," Tracy said. "It doesn't take much to kill a person in a car. It's a weapon if you're a drunk. I think three strikes and you're out is way too lenient."
Flake's bill would make a third conviction for DUI a deportable offense under federal immigration law. It would apply to both legal and illegal immigrants.
Though the most significant impact of the legislation would be on legal immigrants, Flake couched it as an attempt to toughen laws against people in the country illegally in both a news release and an interview with the Tribune.
"People have a hard time understanding, justifiably so, that this doesn't have immigration consequences and these people keep coming back," Flake said Wednesday of multiple DUI convictions. "On its face, it needs to be corrected. This is one that people are justifiably very upset about, and it should be dealt with."
Being in the country illegally is itself a deportable offense, said Vincent Picard of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Phoenix.
However, a Mexican national caught in the country illegally has the option of taking voluntary deportation rather than going through an administrative hearing process. Voluntary deportations do not go on a person's record. Forced deportations do, and bar that person from legally entering the United States for 10 years, said Picard, stressing he is not familiar with Flake's proposal.
A person who re-enters the country after a forcible deportation also faces felony charges.
Current law does not treat multiple DUI convictions as a deportable felony, and so they carry no consequences to a person's immigration status, Flake said. The proposed legislation was originally included in a 2007 bill to make sweeping reforms to American immigration laws, he said.
The broader bill is not likely to pass Congress, so Flake said he took out the provision dealing with DUIs as a stand-alone bill.
Making a third conviction, rather than the first, a deportable offense is a recognition of what has a realistic chance of passing Congress, Flake said.
"You get the best legislation you can pass," Flake said. "Some would say the first offense, they're gone. You may not be able to get that through."
Flake has taken heat from fellow Republicans for his support of the immigration reform bill of 2007, which critics have branded as "amnesty" for illegal immigrants. The provision making it tougher on illegal immigrants convicted of multiple DUI offenses is one of many tough provisions in that bill that have gone largely unnoticed by critics, Flake said.
But one of Flake's harshest critics on the issue, state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said the congressman's proposal is "a slap in the face to every victim of crime that has died, and die every day" because of crimes committed by an illegal immigrant.
Pearce cited Kelly's death in Gilbert, and the October death of Phoenix police officer Shane Figueroa, as examples of people killed in crashes by illegal immigrants suspected of drunken driving.
It makes no sense to allow an illegal immigrant three DUI convictions before there are federal immigration consequences, Pearce said.
"I guess Jeff's message is until you kill somebody it's OK that you are here and driving drunk on our roads," Pearce said. "Why would you put that kind of condition on? You have no respect for the citizens that are victims of illegal aliens."