Even before he took office, President Biden made a big splash with his sweeping immigration reform proposal. While headlines focus on a path to citizenship for otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants, it’s important to note the plan’s lackluster efforts on curbing illegal immigration. And while the proposal doesn’t expand the wall on the southern border, Biden hopes to curb illegal immigration by utilizing better technology and infrastructure on the border. Seemingly lost in the proposal is any change in punishments for illegal immigrants who commit other crimes or any way to crack down on the sanctuary jurisdictions that enable them.
Consider the path of destruction caused by just one man who illegally crossed the border and was not deported despite his serious crimes.
In 2007, 16-year-old Tessa Tranchant’s future was alight with promise. Starting at age five, Tessa earned accolades around the country for her skill in Irish dance. In passing years, she became passionate about riding English horses, enjoyed playing guitar, sang the musical score from Rent with gusto, and was an especially accomplished surfer. The all-American teenager seemed destined to fulfill the dreams of her Hispanic, Irish, and European immigrant forebearers.
But on March 30, 2007, as Tessa and her friend, Alison Kunhardt, waited for a traffic light to turn green, a careless drunk driver, who had entered the country illegally years prior, forever snuffed out both girls’ ambitions.
A ticking time bomb
The record of illegal immigrant Alfredo Ramos’s first six years in the United States is full of purposeful omissions.
In a 2017 prison interview, Ramos claimed that he wanted to come clean about his illegal past. He admitted, through a translator, that he breached the U.S. border in a four-day voyage by foot across the desert from the Mexican state of Sonora to Mesa, Arizona.
From the moment his feet touched U.S. soil around 2001, Ramos’s every movement was calculated to evade detection. For years, he succeeded.
In Mesa, he acquired a vehicle. On someone’s advice, possibly from an older brother also residing illegally in the country, Ramos drove to North Carolina, where an organization he has never named sold him the false documents that he would need to work in the U.S.
According to transcripts from Ramos’s manslaughter trial, the illegal immigrant first lived in Florida before moving to Virginia, where a series of police interactions should have put him on federal authorities’ radar.
Between October 2006 and March 30, 2007, the 22-year-old Ramos accumulated three alcohol-related misdemeanor convictions: public drunkenness in Chesapeake, Virginia; a DUI again in Chesapeake, where his blood alcohol concentration level was 0.14%; and public intoxication in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Ramos was also convicted of identity theft and a seat belt violation in early 2007. Additionally, he was charged in Chesapeake for driving without a license and having no insurance, but the charges were withdrawn.
In the first incident, on October 29, 2006, a Chesapeake police officer discovered Ramos passed out in the passenger seat of his vehicle, which was parked in a driving lane in a restaurant parking lot. It took the officer nearly five minutes to rouse Ramos, who stumbled out of the vehicle, unzipped his fly, moved to the rear of his car, and began to urinate. After being called to an emergency, the officer returned and charged Ramos with public intoxication.
Just two weeks later, on Nov. 13, 2006, Ramos veered over a double yellow line on a two-lane road. His car headed straight toward the vehicle of a Chesapeake police officer, who utilized a small section of shoulder to swerve and recover before pursuing Ramos. When Ramos finally stopped, he blew a 0.14% BAC, almost double the legal limit of 0.08%. He was charged with a DUI.
On Jan. 19, 2007, citizens called 911 to report Ramos’s erratic driving as he careened over curbs, heading toward heavily trafficked Virginia Beach Boulevard. After Ramos popped both of his front tires, a citizen stopped his vehicle by pulling the keys from his ignition, though Ramos continued attempting to accelerate. While waiting for officers from the Virginia Beach Police Department to arrive, Ramos told the citizen to let him go because he “would not do it again, and he lived right up the street.” When officers arrived, they charged Ramos with public drunkenness.
Ramos’s record was lengthy and included clear warnings that he was a ticking time bomb. But since his record technically included only misdemeanors, a Virginia Beach Police Department “sanctuary policy” enacted in 2005 prohibited the authorities from even asking Ramos about his immigration status.
In February 2007, when Ramos came before a judge to answer to his DUI charge, he was given a 90-day suspended sentence and a $250 fine, was ordered to participate in an alcohol awareness program, and his fake Florida license was suspended. Not being legally licensed had not stopped Ramos from driving before his trial,and the suspension of his fake license had no effect on his behavior.
Ramos, the ticking time bomb, ticked ever closer to an explosion.
According to court documents, Ramos initially denied having consumed alcohol on March 30, 2007. Later, he admitted he had two beers. Finally, he settled on admitting to having four to five beers. As the translator said in his 2017 jailhouse interview, “At that time, he was aware that he was that drunk, but he was much younger, and he felt invincible.”
Ramos sped down Virginia Beach Boulevard at more than 65 mph, at least 20 mph above the posted speed limit. His BAC level hovered at 0.24% — or three times the legal limit.
Ramos was less than two miles away from his residence when he slammed his 1998 Mitsubishi into a 1994 Plymouth Duster stopped at a traffic light. On hearing the explosive crash, residents nearby thought a bomb had gone off.
Inside the Plymouth, Tessa Tranchant and Alison were on their way home from the movies. They had just stopped at a convenience store to buy a pack of gum. As Tessa’s father, Ray, said: “They were just sitting at the light, strapped in their seat belts. They were just doing what they were supposed to be doing.”