U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement after sending a letter to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency demanding answers about Nemias Garcia-Velasco's immigration status, after the multi-time deportee Garcia-Velasco was charged with homicide.

"We cannot let these tragedies become the new normal,” said Sasse. "The revolving door for dangerous illegal aliens needs to stop. ICE has to step up, answer Nebraskan’s questions, and fix this broken enforcement system.”

Text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Mr. Homan,

            Nemias Garcia-Velasco—an illegal alien who was removed from the United States more than half-a-dozen times, convicted of falsely claiming U.S. citizenship, and arrested with a blood alcohol level more than three times the legal limit—was charged with homicide after causing a fiery crash. This case raises serious concerns about public safety, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement owes Nebraskans a thorough explanation for why this man was allowed in the country.

          On Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at approximately 1:00 PM, Nemias Garcia-Velasco was driving at a speed of more than 100 miles per hour on Interstate 80 approaching the Interstate 680 split in Omaha, one of the busiest interchanges in our state.[1] He lost control of the vehicle, hitting a guardrail and a bridge abutment before the van rolled and was engulfed in flames.[2]The crash killed one man and injured a 16-year-old boy.[3] After Garcia-Velasco himself was taken to the hospital, his blood alcohol content was measured at 0.243, more than three times the legal limit of 0.08.[4]

            The Douglas County Attorney’s Office has charged Garcia-Velasco with motor vehicle homicide.[5] At the initial hearing, the prosecutor detailed how the defendant had previously been removed from the United States a total of seven times, five times through voluntary return in 2005 and twice through deportation in 2009 and 2011.[6] Additionally, the prosecutor noted that Garcia-Velasco had previously been convinced of making a false claim of U.S. citizenship,[7]a felony punishable by up to three years of jail time.[8] Prosecutors noted that the defendant represents a flight risk and requested a high bail, which the judge set at $2,000,000.[9]

            Troublingly, this case is far from the only such tragedy to befall our community in recent months. As I have previously brought to the attention of your agency,[10] last year another illegal alien, Eswin Mejia, was reportedly street racing while intoxicated in Omaha when he violently crashed his pickup truck into the back of another vehicle.[11] Inside the other vehicle was Sarah Root, who had graduated college just hours before.[12] Ms. Root was rushed to the hospital, where she died from her injuries.[13] In light of Mejia’s past encounters with law enforcement that included a skipped court hearing and a subsequent warrant issued for his arrest, Omaha Police requested that ICE detain Mejia, but your agency refused to do so, allowing Mejia to disappear.[14] He remains at large, and Ms. Root’s grieving family and friends have been deprived of justice.

            These cases are just two examples from an emerging pattern of dangerous illegal aliens with troubling histories with law enforcement and immigration authorities being allowed to remain in this country, with deadly consequences for innocent people. Simply put, this is unacceptable. It is the responsibility of ICE to ensure that illegal aliens that pose a danger to public safety are successfully and permanently removed from our communities. Instead, it appears that ICE is presiding over a broken enforcement system that’s simply a revolving door. Nebraskans demand answers as to why individuals such as Garcia-Velasco and Mejia were allowed to pose a threat to innocent lives.

            Please answer the following questions:

1. How many times has Mr. Garcia-Velasco been returned to Mexico from the United States due to unlawful presence or other reason for removability? Please provide a list of all of his past departures, including date, process for return, reason(s) for removability, and location in which he was taken into custody.

2. What is the extent of Mr. Garcia-Velasco’s criminal record? In addition, please detail any pending criminal proceedings as well as any incidents known to ICE in which he was charged but not convicted, in which he was named as an unindicted co-conspirator, or in which law enforcement otherwise had probable cause to believe he had committed a crime or posed a danger to public safety.

3. Did Mr. Garcia-Velasco’s immigration and criminal record prior to the events of July 5, 2017 qualify him at any enumerated level of priority for enforcement under then-Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson’s November 20, 2014 civil enforcement memorandum?

4. Has ICE ever received any requests from other federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies to detain Mr. Garcia-Velasco? Please detail each occurrence, including ICE’s response and rationale for action or inaction.

5. Prior to the events of July 5, 2017, did ICE or any other federal law enforcement agency seek to interview or detain Mr. Garcia-Velasco? If so, was this effort ever impeded by any state or local jurisdiction due to a so-called “sanctuary” policy?

6. Under current policy, does ICE consider Mr. Garcia-Velasco to be a priority for enforcement?

Please respond in writing within the next 30 days. If you have any questions, please contact my staff at (202) 224-4224 and know that I am eager to work with you to ensure your answers do not compromise any ongoing investigations or other sensitive law enforcement activities. I look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

 

Ben Sasse

United States Senator



[1] Kevin Cole & Alia Conley, Prosecutor: Driver involved in fiery crash has been removed from U.S. 7 times, Omaha World-Herald, July 13, 2017, http://www.omaha.com/news/crime/prosecutor-driver-involved-in-fiery-crash-has-been-removed-from/article_5757731c-6645-11e7-9201-d7386ec44378.html.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] See 18 U.S.C. § 911 (2012).

[9] Cole & Conley, supra.

[10] Letter from Ben Sasse to Sarah Saldana, Dir., U.S. Immigration & Customs Enf. (Feb. 29, 2016), https://www.sasse.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=29BE8539-6363-4B5F-94EA-F9F1B0883154.

[11] Todd Cooper & Bob Glissmann, Systemic failures allowed man accused in motor vehicle homicide to vanish, Omaha World-Herald, Feb. 22, 2016, http://www.omaha.com/news/crime/systemic-failures-allowed-man-accused-in-motor-vehicle-homicide-to/article_7bb2a688-8bdb-554f-b795-4381b3e9d464.html.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.