"He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." Isaiah 49:10

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

After Arrest - Children Left Alone on Highway

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

Every day there seems to be another news story of how evil continues to push good to the gutter. Please read the news article below on how a sheriff deputy left children - alone - on the interstate after arresting their mother for being a 'criminal' for not having a driver's license.

Why do we allow such incidents to go unnoticed without an outcry from the good people? When will we stand up together and say 'ENOUGH!'

Our country is better than this gestapo attitude that we must rid our country of the 'unclean and unwanted.'

We truly live a dark and sad point in time in our country's history. How have we allowed these conditions to exist in our country is testament to the silence of the good people and the hateful and mean spirited racists that have fooled the rest of us into thinking that this will keep us safe from 'criminals and terrorists.'

Our country has sunk to the depths of the perpetrators of violence and hate. When will we confront this disease of racism and bigotry? Will we allow our freedom and liberty to be used for the evil works of ICE and other law enforcement agencies bent on destroying the American dream?

Why have our Federal legislators given the managers of ICE the freedom to enact insane rules and policies like 287 (g) and not hold ICE accountable for their actions? How can they justify leaving children on the interstate and not feel any responsibility for their actions?

America - wake up!

Fidel "Butch" Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212

'And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.' Micah 6: 8


Mom arrested, kids left on I-85
Abandoned by fellow immigrant
News Observer.com
Kristin Collins, Staff Writer

An illegal immigrant arrested on a traffic violation last month was forced to leave her three children on the shoulder of Interstate 85 in the middle of the night -- where they were alone and stranded for eight hours.

An Alamance County sheriff's deputy pulled Maria Chavira Ventura over just before 2 a.m. on June 14, according to arrest records. He took her to jail for driving without a license and displaying a false license plate, and she was eventually put under a federal deportation order.

He left her children, 14, 10 and 6, with a man they barely knew, according to the N.C. Justice Center and Maryland social workers. He was a fellow church member who had been catching a ride with the family.

Lawyers with the Justice Center are investigating the incident. They say the man, fearing deportation if the officer returned, abandoned the children, leaving them to wait for their father to drive from Maryland.

The father, Antonio Perez, said he got a cell phone call from the sobbing children around 2 a.m. They had been headed from their home in Western North Carolina to visit him in Maryland. Perez, who doesn't have a license and had to get his uncle to drive him, arrived at 10:30 a.m. to find his children scared, exhausted, hungry, and distraught over the loss of their mother.

'They were left abandoned there in the middle of the street,' Perez said. 'It was a horrible experience for them, just horrible.'

Perez, an illegal immigrant from Honduras, agreed to give only his middle and last names. His story was confirmed by Justice Center lawyers who interviewed Ventura in jail. The 14-year-old also told the same story in an interview with social workers in Maryland. The Justice Center provided a copy of that interview.

Officials at the Alamance County Sheriff's Department say they handled Ventura's arrest according to their policies. They say children are frequently left with neighbors or family friends, as long as parents approve. If there is no adult available, the department calls social workers, said spokesman Randy Jones.

'We make arrangements all the time, and we have to do it on a case-by-case basis,' Jones said. 'We're not going to let something happen to a child.'

In this case, Jones said, the department has not received a complaint and was unaware until last week that the children ended up alone.

Jones said the man, who had no identification or driver's license, had a cell phone and told the officer that help was on the way. The mother spoke very little English, so the officer had the teenage daughter ask her handcuffed mother whether she approved of them staying with the man, Jones said.

'The girl said something to the mother in Spanish,' Jones said. 'And the officer said the mother looked at him and nodded.'

However, both Ventura and her daughter say the officer never asked permission to leave the children with the man. Dan Rearick, a Justice Center lawyer, interviewed Ventura at the Alamance County jail on July 9.

'She said very clearly that the officer never mentioned her children and she was never told anything about what would happen to them,' Rearick said.

Ventura got no response when she tried to ask the officer, in broken English, about her children, she told Rearick.

The daughter said in an interview with Casa de Maryland, an immigrant advocacy group, that the officer asked only if they had a phone and someone to call.

Jones said the sheriff's department doesn't know what happened to the children after their mother's arrest. He said they don't plan to look into it any further, unless they receive an official complaint. He said that, if the children were left alone, the man bears responsibility for abandoning them.

Asking the parent

Other law enforcement agencies agree that there are no set procedures for handling cases with children involved.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said his officers always ask the parent whether there is a relative or close family friend who can care for the children. If they can't communicate with the parent, they have a 24-hour interpreting service available by phone, Harrison said.

'We just won't let the children go with anybody,' Harrison said. 'We've got to make sure that the parent feels comfortable.'

Lt. Everett Clendenin, spokesman for the N.C. Highway Patrol, said officers wouldn't leave children with a person whose identity or relationship to the children wasn't clear. But he said officers will leave children with non-family members if the parent agrees.

Rearick says Ventura and her family are traumatized but have little recourse.

The two younger children, both U.S. citizens, are with Perez. Perez is hesitant to bring a complaint against the department because of his immigration status.

Perez is not the father of the eldest child, and she is being cared for by relatives in North Carolina. Rearick said the girl does not have legal status and is now afraid to speak about the incident.

'The people who are caring for her say she can't sleep at night,' Rearick said.

Ventura pleaded guilty to the traffic charges, and federal officials are now holding her in a county jail in
Alabama. Barbara Gonzalez, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said she will soon be deported. Gonzalez said Ventura was using an assumed name and that her true name is Maria Mejia. Gonzalez said federal officials are looking into the circumstances of her arrest.

Alamance County participates in a federal program, called 287(g) for a section of law, that allows jailers to check immigration status and begin deportation proceedings on those they arrest. Many sheriffs, including Alamance Sheriff Terry Johnson, tout the program as a way to stop violent repeat criminals.

Advocates say the program has led to an increasing number of arrests of Hispanic immigrants for traffic violations. State law prohibits those without legal status from getting driver's licenses or registering cars, so many illegal immigrants are arrested on charges similar to Ventura's.

'This is another example of the real results of 287(g) -- arresting people for minor traffic offenses rather than taking criminals off the street,' Rearick said. 'Any program that leaves three little kids alone on the side of the highway is creating more problems than it solves.'

Jones, the Alamance sheriff's spokesman, said arresting the woman was standard procedure, since she wasn't allowed to continue driving and couldn't prove her identity.

'I can't find anything wrong with what the officer did,' Jones said.

(Staff writer Zoe Elizabeth Buck contributed to this report.)

kristin.collins@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4881
Staff writer Zoe Elizabeth Buck contributed to this report.

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A subsidiary of The McClatchy Company

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