Uninsured Illegal Immigrant Drivers
By Emily Sinovic
The FOX23 News (Tulsa, OK), November 6, 2009
Illegal immigrants are driving without insurance, and it could cost you thousands of dollars. A Sapulpa mother was driving two children in the backseat, when another car slammed into her car, totalling her car. The other driver was an illegal immigrant. He didn't have insurance, he was drunk, and he had done this before.
Paige Harp had her car for only three weeks before the accident. She had already started planning the new life she have with the ability to apply for jobs and drive to work.
Harp said, 'I was so excited the first week I had my car. I probably filled out 20 applications to different places. I got a call right after the wreck for my first job interview.'
Paige is stuck with a bill for more than $1,500 that she doesn't have. She had insurance, but her insurance did not cover the uninsured motorists.
The man who hit her was an illegal immigrant, driving drunk without insurance.
Sapulpa Police Officer Todd Lawrence was at the scene of Paige Harp's accident. Lawrence said he recognized the illegal immigrant. Lawrence said he arrested the same man earlier this year. Officer Lawrence said, 'I had worked a collision involving him back in January and it was a hit and run collision. He had been drinking then. He had also been arrested for DUI on that particular occasion.'
The same illegal immigrant had given Officer Lawrence different names at each arrest. Officer Lawrence said he quickly realized this man was the same person he arrested for a DUI before. Lawrence went back and realized the same man had given different names during a number of other arrests dating back to 2005.
Lawrence said, had he not recognized the man as being the same person who he previously arrested, the illegal immigrant may not have been charged with a felony because it would have been a first time offense.
Lawrence said, 'Depending on what name he had given that time, he would not have been charged with a felony DUI probably would have been a misdemeanor and probably went to the same city jail.'
The seriousness of the charge makes a difference when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement decides who to deport.
Officer Lawrence said every time Sapulpa PD arrests someone believed to be an illegal immigrant, the police department reports that person to ICE. ICE then decides whether to deport that person.
Lawrence said ICE was notified in January when Lawrence arrested the illegal immigrant for DUI and leaving the scene of an accident. The illegal immigrant was not deported.
When Officer Lawrence was asked if he assumed the illegal immigrant would have been deported after the first DUI arrest, Lawrence responded, 'I had hoped and didn't really assume. The system sometimes works and sometimes does not. We did our part by notifying ICE which is customs and immigration. They did not put a hold on him. He was able to plead guilty, pay his bond and was released.'
A spokesperson for ICE told FOX23, 'If ICE has resources to deport [illegal immigrants] then ICE will deport them. ICE will prioritize resources to go after more serious offenders.'
ICE said it did not have record of notification from Sapulpa PD after the January, but said the illegal immigrant is in the process of being deported now.
Paige Harp says that is something that should have been done much sooner.
Harp said, 'I don't understand it at all. He should've been gone before this.'