United States Sen. Ben Sasse is demanding answers from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency about its handling of Nemias Garcia-Velasco, a Mexican citizen in this country illegally when he caused a fatal wreck in Omaha.
Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has sent a letter to ICE officials.
“We cannot let these tragedies become the new normal,” Sasse said in a written statement released by his office. “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.”
Douglas County prosecutors accuse Garcia-Velasco of driving drunk when he caused the fatal accident on July 5th. Garcia-Velasco has been charged with motor vehicle homicide.
The fatal crash occurred as Garcia-Velasco drove a work van west on Interstate 80 near the split with I-680. Prosecutors say the van reached speeds in excess of 100 mph when it hit a guardrail as well as a bridge abutment. The van crashed, rolled, and caught fire.
58-year-old Silvano Torres, riding unrestrained in the cargo area of the van, was ejected from the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Another passenger in the van, 16-year-old Jesus Gonzalez, was treated and released from a local hospital.
According to prosecutors, Garcia-Velasco’s blood-alcohol content was at .243 when he was checked into Nebraska Medical Center for treatment of severe burns, three times the legal limit of .08.
In his letter to ICE, Sasse stated, “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.”
Sasse pointed out Garcia-Velasco had been removed from the United States seven times, twice through deportation in 2009 and 2011. Garcia-Velasco had also previously been convicted of falsely claiming to be a United States citizen.
Sasse noted in his letter the Garcia-Velasco case comes after another case in which an illegal immigrant racing in the streets of Omaha last year crashed into another vehicle, killing a young woman. Sasse draws parallels between the Garcia-Velasco case and the case of 19-year-old Eswin Meja, accused of causing the death of recent college graduate 21-year-old Sarah Root of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Omaha police requested ICE detain Mejia. ICE didn’t. Mejia remains at large.
“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,” Sasse wrote in his letter to ICE.
Sasse asks ICE how many times Garcia-Velasco had been returned to Mexico, his criminal record, whether ICE has been asked to detain Garcia Velasco by local law enforcement, and whether his case is a priority for the agency.
Sasse requests a response within 30 days.
Garcia-Velasco has been jailed in Douglas County, awaiting trial. His bail has been set at $2 million.