Northern Virginia Tragedy Becomes Part Of National Immigration Debate

A fatal car crash on a country road in Northern Virginia has become part of the national debate on over illegal immigration.

A car crash in the Northern Virginia suburbs has become part of the national debate over immigration:

An alleged drunk driver involved in a crash Sunday morning that killed a Catholic nun in Prince William County and left two other nuns gravely injured has a record of numerous motor vehicle violations in recent years, including two drunken-driving cases for which he served 20 days in jail, according to authorities and court records.

The suspect, Carlos A. Martinelly Montano, 23, an illegal immigrant from Bolivia, was also detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after a drunken-driving arrest in 2008. Montano was released on his own recognizance pending a deportation hearing, which has yet to occur because of a backlog, said ICE spokeswoman Cori Bassett.

Montano “has reported as required on a monthly basis to ICE” while awaiting the hearing, Bassett said. Gang members and other violent criminals are often jailed to await deportation hearings, but two drunken-driving arrests “aren’t enough to warrant detention,” said an immigration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the case against Montano is pending.

Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert voiced anger about the case in an interview Monday.

“He’s thumbed his nose at the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia for years,” Ebert said of Montano. “He continued to drive, even though his privilege had been revoked and he didn’t have the right to drive. And he continued to drive drunk, which led to this horrible, horrible situation.”

Montano was intoxicated when the 1997 Subaru Outback he was driving in the Bristow area struck a guardrail on Bristow Road near Wright Lane shortly before 8:30 a.m. Sunday, police said. The Outback, traveling north, spun out of control and careered into the southbound lanes, colliding head-on with the nuns’ 2003 Toyota Corolla.

The story of this car crash, which ordinarily would be restricted to the Metro Section of The Washington Post, has received national coverage due to the fact that Montano was an illegal immigrant under the threat of a deportation order by ICE, and the fact that he wasn’t in detention at the time of the accident.

It’s equally valid, though, to point to this is as an example of flaws in Virginia’s DUI statutes. This was the third time in three years that Montano had driven while intoxicated, that we know of:

About 3:15 a.m. on July 7, 2007, according to court documents, a police officer found Montano asleep behind the wheel of a car idling at a stop sign. After the officer ordered him to step out, Montano “was extremely unsteady on his feet and almost fell to the road,” a police report says. It says Montano told the officer he had consumed about eight beers.

Tests showed Montano’s blood-alcohol level was 0.13 percent, well above the 0.08 percent legal limit for driving in Virginia, court records show. His license was suspended after his conviction, but he was not sentenced to jail.

Just after 2 a.m. on Oct. 4, 2008, a police officer stopped Montano for driving erratically, court documents show. He told the officer that he had consumed five or six beers, a police report says. It says that a breath test given to Montano 90 minutes after his arrest found his blood-alcohol level to be 0.17 percent, more than twice the legal limit.

In Virginia, a second drunken-driving conviction within five years is punishable by up to a year in jail, and the defendant must serve at least 10 days. Montano was given a 363-day sentence with all but 20 days suspended, records show.

Twenty days in jail, under a statute that could have sent him to jail for a year. Yes, it wouldn’t have prevented Montano from being on the road on July 31, 2010, but it would’ve kept him off the road, and perhaps led to an expedited handling of his deportation proceedings.

This isn’t ICE’s fault. The truth of the matter is that the facilities used to house immigrants awaiting deportation hearings are already over-crowded and priority is given to keeping in custody only those considered most dangerous. Did Montano qualify under that criteria ? Based on Sunday’s tragedy, obviously, but his record beforehand arguably didn’t indicate that he was as much of a danger as, say, a member of a Salvadoran street gang.

Interestingly enough, the victim’s fellow Nuns are pleading that this case not be demagogued for political purposes:

The religious order that was home to three nuns whose car was hit Sunday morning by an alleged drunk driver in Northern Virginia said it is upset at what it views as the politicization of the incident.

Sister Glenna Smith, a spokeswoman for the Benedictine Sisters, said Tuesday that “we are dismayed” by reports that the crash, which killed one woman and critically injured two others, is focusing attention on the man’s status as an alleged illegal immigrant. Critics of federal immigration policy have seized on the crash.

“The fact the he had DUIs is really poignant, but he’s a child of God and deserves to be treated with dignity,” Smith said of the driver, Carlos A. Martinelly Montano. “I don’t want to make a pro- or anti-immigrant statement but simply a point that he is an individual human person and we will be approaching him with mercy. Denise, of all us, would be the first to offer forgiveness.”

Another nun said Montano’s parents, Maria and Alejandro Martinelly, appeared unexpectedly at the monastery in Bristow on Sunday night. Sister Andrea Verchuck, who has lived at the monastery for 66 years, said she was working at her desk that night when the doorbell rang.

The couple were apologetic, she said, and told her they had tried to get their son help. Verchuck said she was glad she answered the door, so she could reassure them that the nuns “held no grudges.”

Not surprising coming from Catholic Nuns, but perhaps it’s an attitude we should all think about adopting.

As for Montano, yes, he should be deported. After he’s spent a sufficient amount of time in a Virginia prison in punishment for taking the life of another human being.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    All we get from you is excuses.  Doug, Karma should allow you to become a victim of what you think is ok if it befalls others.  ICE needed to expide the removal of this individual from this country.  Why is there a backlog?  Put more people on it.  If the government had done itsw JOB, this nun would be alive today.  Is there some part of that you cannot grasp?  How many people have to die, how many crimes must be committed before liberals like yourself think it is OK to enforce our laws?  WTF is the matter with you?

  2. tom p says:

    ls like yourself think it is OK to enforce our laws?  WTF is the matter with you?All we get from you is excuses.  Doug, Karma should allow you to become a victim of what you think is ok if it befalls others.  ICE needed to expide the removal of this individual from this country.  Why is there a backlog?  Put more people on it.  If the government had done itsw JOB, this nun would be alive today.  Is there some part of that you cannot grasp?  How many people have to die, how many crimes must be committed before libera

    So Zells, are you gonna pay for it??? The deficit is already a trillion plus, what’s a couple thousand more?

    Typical… wants more while paying less.

  3. tom p says:

    And by the by, maybe we should start with our own? My ex got her 2nd DWI after almost killing 2 people while driving on probation from her first….

    In other words, the DWI problem has nothing to do with the illegal immigration problem. Apples and oranges, guys…

  4. Russ says:

    Just this afternoon on my way home from work I almost hit a pedestrian looking to cross the road at a poorly marked crosswalk, the paint that marked the crosswalk was faded and scraped away no doubt by the snow plows of winter and had it been more clearly marked as a crosswalk I might have been more careful so my question is why does Barack hate walking and road crossing pedestrians? Why? What an incompetent President.

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    tom p, Changing the subject from immigration to deficits and debt makes no sense.  The fact we have our own DUI drivers is nonsensical as well.
     
    Anecdotal evidence is the mothers milk of politics.  The Dems use somebody who lost their health insurance to push their agenda, the conservatives use this to push for stricter immigration enforcement.  That’s the way it works.
     
    Russ,  Here in Oregon the law states there is a presumption of a crosswalk at every intersection.  My local sheriff recently conducted a crosswalk sting where none were marked.  We just can’t win can we?

  6. TangoMan says:

    <I>And by the by, maybe we should start with our own? My ex got her 2nd DWI after almost killing 2 people while driving on probation from her first….</I>
     
    The problem of DWI is clearly not proportionally distributed across race, ethnicity and gender. More men than women drive drunk and more Hispanics than Caucasians drive drunk.
     
    <a href=”http://hamptonroads.com/2005/10/hispanic-laborers-driving-unregistered-vehicles-have-caused-scores-eastern-shore-traffic-dea”>Virginia</a>:
     
    <blockquote>
    Since 2002, more than 90 people have been injured and 18 killed on the Eastern Shore in accidents involving Hispanic workers driving rogue vehicles.
    <b>The fatalities represent about one-fourth of the 71 highway deaths on the Eastern Shore in that period, even though the year-round Hispanic population makes up only 5 percent of the region’s 51,000 residents.</b> Those numbers swell during tomato-picking season, from July through early November, when most of the fatalities occurred.
    </blockquote>
     
    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration specifically targeting outreach to Hispanics:
     
    <blockquote>
    According to NHTSA, impaired driving is a public health epidemic, with Hispanics being at higher risk. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for Hispanics ages 1-34 in the United States.  Alcohol-related crashes account for about half of all Hispanic traffic-related fatalities.
    </blockquote>
     
    But hey, always remember that multiculturalism is our strength. Hispanics’ increased tendency to drive drunk is simply a reflection of the diversity that makes America great.
     
    <a href=”http://www.maddorangecounty.org/oc_stats_2002.htm”>MADD statistics</a>:
     
    <blockquote>

    84.8% MaleAverage age – 33.544.1% Hispanic (31.3% of population)42.6% White (49.7% of population)7% Black (6.7% of population)6.3% Other (12.4% of population)

    </blockquote>

    As Steven likes to note, if you don’t understand the fulls cope of the problem then you can’t develop adequate policy to respond to the problem.

  7. JKB says:

    True this isn’t ICE’s fault.  They are just executing long term federal policy not to facilitate deportations.   But it is only a matter of time before another Marco Riz surfaces. In that case, Providence, RI police weren’t proactive but did fax his name to ICE who failed to act on a deportation order.  Riz also had a DUI but then decided to escalate to kidnap, robbery and rape.
     
    That is why the Obama administration is so desperate to keep Arizona from reporting illegals to ICE.  If AZ tell the feds about an illegal and they fail to act, then the rape, murder, child abduction, etc. will be owned by the administration.
     
    Here’s an amusing Case of illegal immigrant fires political feud when a democratic mayor has to scramble to cover for the tragedy precipitated by Riz’s crime.

  8. superdestroyer says:

    It should amaze no one that the La Raze, cheap labor Republicans will make any excuse to maintain open borders and unlimited immigration.
    How bad does the quality of life in the U.S. have to get before people say that enough is enough.  How bad to the schools have to get.  How bad does congestion have to get.  How high does crime have to go before the idiots who claim to be conservatives get it through their thick, stupid heads that people want the U.S to control the border and put an end to illegal immigration.
    Instead the La Raza Republicans keep making excuses so that they get cheaper labor and other people pay the price of their cheap labor.

  9. superdestroyer says:

    It should amaze no one that the La Raze, cheap labor Republicans will make any excuse to maintain open borders and unlimited immigration. How bad does the quality of life in the U.S. have to get before people say that enough is enough.  How bad to the schools have to get.  How bad does congestion have to get.  How high does crime have to go before the idiots who claim to be conservatives get it through their thick, stupid heads that people want the U.S to control the border and put an end to illegal immigration. Instead the La Raza Republicans keep making excuses so that they get cheaper labor and other people pay the price of their cheap labor.

  10. Franklin says:

    Ahhh, Zels, the world’s worst troll.  Where the heck did Triumph go?  At least he could be amusing at times.
    /And why don’t we have an Ignore function yet?