He is not the sort of illegal immigrant “DREAMer” that President Obama would recruit as a poster boy for his open-borders agenda. Fernando Lopez Aguilar, after all, was not a high school valedictorian or college-bound scholarship recipient like the handful of such students that the media love to do feel-good stories about. Lopez Aguilar was a loser: a scruffy 18-year-old who had entered the country illegally from Mexico at age seven, and who’d had previous run-ins with the police. And earlier this month, he was taken into custody for causing a horrific three-vehicle crash in Des Moines – a tragedy that has received much media coverage in Iowa and that has provoked the outrage of a U.S. Senator.
Lopez Aguilar was driving a car on September 8 that he knew had faulty brakes. Speeding past a stop sign that afternoon, he slammed into a pick-up – sending it airborne and careening into an SUV. The crash fatally injured 12-year-old Lea Phann, a popular 7th grader, and seriously injured four other people, including Phann’s grandfather. In all, Lopez Aguilar was charged with operating without a driver’s license, failure to have insurance, and two counts of serious injury caused by reckless driving. He was also charged with felony child endangerment because a baby was in his car strapped in a child seat.
Aside from extensive media coverage about Lea Phann’s death and the memorials and fund-raisers held for her, some disturbing facts have emerged about Lopez Aguilar – all thanks to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
After questions arose about Lopez Aguilar’s immigration status, Sen. Grassley wrote an angry letter demanding answers about the Mexican national’s status from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. “If true [that Lopez Aguilar is in the U.S. illegally], Lea Phann died at the hands of someone who broke our laws and should not have been allowed to remain in the United States,” Grassley wrote. “It is unfortunate that a young child’s life may have been taken when the government could have done more to protect her and her family.”
Recently, Sen. Grassley got some answers. As it turns out, Lopez Aguilar had obtained a work permit thanks to one of President Obama’s executive orders benefiting illegal aliens, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which went into effect in 2012 after the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) was scuttled in Congress. It has allowed large numbers of illegal immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthdays (with their parents or as unaccompanied minors) to receive renewable two-year work permits. Lopez Aguilar’s permit, however, had expired on June 4, 2016 – three months before the fatal crash. It’s unclear why Lopez Aguilar reportedly fell out of favor with the program – or why immigration authorities failed to keep track of him.
One thing that is known about Lopez Aguilar is that he didn’t meet the media’s clean-cut image of a “DREAMer.” Before the crash, Iowa police had charged him with possession of drug paraphernalia and driving without a valid license. Neither charge, however, would have been considered enough to revoke his temporary work permit, according to Des Moines immigration lawyer James Benzoni. “Drug paraphernalia is on the edge but no drivers license, that’s not considered to be a significant crime as far as DACA goes,” Benzoni told a media outlet in Iowa.
Millions of illegal Mexican immigrants now live in every corner of the U.S., having flooded over a porous border over the past few decades. Most are from impoverished areas of Mexico and have little education – and more than a few have run-ins with the police, according to statistics cited in Ann Coulter’s book, “Adios, America: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole.” In Nebraska, another high-profile fatal crash caused by an illegal immigrant also provoked outrage from Sen. Grassley because the victim was an Iowan.
Sarah Root, a 21-year-old from Council Bluffs, had just graduated with stellar grades from Bellevue University near Omaha. Out celebrating with friends, she had stopped at a traffic light when a car driven by illegal alien Eswin Mejia – who was drunk and street racing – slammed into her. She died after being on life support for 72 hours; and during that time Mejia, a Honduran national, was freed on $500,000 bond after a relative posted 10 percent cash, $5,000, of the amount. Today his whereabouts are unknown, and relatives supposedly know nothing about him. He had entered the country as a 16-year-old in 2013 as an unaccompanied minor, and he subsequently had many contacts with law-enforcement authorities. Authorities reportedly stopped him in Arizona and held him in Tennessee, but he ultimately made his way to Nebraska.
Outraged over Root’s death, Sen. Grassley subsequently joined three Republican Senators – Iowa Senator Joni Ernst and Nebraska Senators Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse – who together produced “Sarah’s Law.” Introduced last June, it would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to take illegal aliens into custody when they are charged with a crime causing death or serious bodily injury.
Sen. Grassley, for his part, also introduced legislation last July that would require federal immigration authorities to detain undocumented immigrants arrested for driving drunk. That legislation followed several high-profile crashes involving illegal aliens who were driving drunk.
And this week, Sen. Grassley and fellow members of the Senate Judiciary Committee called on the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security to explain what it’s doing to stop the Obama administration from granting U.S. citizenship to criminals and people who had previously been ordered deported. The request came amid a growing immigration scandal: a report from the Inspector General of Homeland Security that at least 858 individuals – many from countries with ties to terrorism – were improperly granted U.S. citizenship. Incredibly, they had used different names or birth dates when applying for citizenship – yet these discrepancies were never caught because their fingerprints were missing from government databases.
Sen. Grassley’s legislation and efforts to stop the Obama administration’s open-borders policies will no doubt save many lives – even if they come too late for Lea Phann and Sarah Root.