Local News

Hit-and-Run Deaths Prompt Questions on Dealing With Illegal Immigration

Posted March 7, 2007

— Jerry Braswell and his 9-year-old son, Jerry Braswell Jr., were driving to their Johnston County home Sunday night when, authorities said, a man ran a stop sign, cut them off and left the scene.

The truck in which the father and son were traveling caught fire; they died.

Nearly a day later, investigators arrested Luciano Tellez, 31, of Angier, and charged him with involuntary manslaughter, two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle, felony hit-and-run, running a stop sign and driving with a suspended license.

Two people who were in the car with Tellez told authorities that he had been drinking. Authorities say Tellez is an illegal immigrant who was convicted in 2005 in Wake County on a prior DWI conviction.

Some say the case is a prime example of proposed legislation that U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, R-Mecklenburg, intends to bring back before Congress. The Scott Gardner Act would require that illegal immigrants be automatically deported if they are convicted of drunken driving.

Some local law-enforcement officials say, however, that they cannot—and sometimes will not—hold a person until federal immigration officials can become involved.

One reason, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison says, is that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are swamped, handling about 800,000 cases referred from local agencies across the nation last year.

In the Wake County Jail, last year, there were at least 900 suspected illegal immigrants, Harrison said. Most of them, he said, served their time and were released before deputies knew their immigration status.

Under the current system, someone who is arrested is fingerprinted and booked. If authorities suspect that person is an illegal immigrant, officers send information to ICE to run through a national database.

Harrison said that if his deputies had access to the database, they could track illegal immigrants faster.

"We can suspect they're illegal, but we don't have the tools to tell us they're illegal," Harrison said. "We have to go to ICE, and ICE says, 'I'm too busy.' They are. We understand that."

"I'm told that it could be done very easily," he added. "It's just a matter of turf, so to speak. I hate to say that, but I think that's what it is."

A program that Myrick helped launch in Mecklenburg County trains deputies to access the federal database and to speed up the deportation process.

Since starting last May, they have identified 1,500 illegal immigrants who will be deported because they committed crimes. Of those, 318 had been arrested on charges of driving while impaired.

Harrison said the Mecklenburg program works, but it is not the answer. He said county taxpayers should not have to pay for what he considers to be a federal job.

"We've got a problem, and if we don't address it now—look how much it's escalated in the last few years," he said. "What do you think it's going to continue to do?"


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  • keengirl Mar 8, 2007

    My heart breaks for the families who are the victims. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say, it is not the fact the someone comes to our country that bothers me...it is the fact that they are ILLEGAL and have no respect for what they demand. They want to come here yet demand that we bend over backwards for them. They ignore our laws because they think they are above them. When you don't work hard for something, you don't appreciate and respect what you have. And clearly, they think very little for our country.

  • stacie Mar 8, 2007

    First let me start by saying my heart breaks for the wife and mother and family of the Braswells. My husband attempted with everything to save them. He has ask the question over and over as to how could our Government sacrafice the lives that were lost for the all mighty dollar. We all know that is the reason everyone and everything is allowed to enter this country. The problem is no ones sees the good in this money except the problems that they have allowed to invade and totally disrupt our way of living. They sure are not protecting our rights and our childrens future. The whole thing makes me sick to my stomach. Who is going to repay Mrs. Braswell and her daughter for the ultimate sacrafice she has made. I get sick and tired of hearing how harmful cigerette smoking is but do you ever hear what drinking alchol does to families, your body oh no that again is clear money put back into the pockets of the government and then given to imigrants. God Bless You Mrs. Braswell

  • r-n-r Mar 8, 2007

    Why did wral pull this article from the main page. When one of these fine people kills some of their people wonder how they will feel. I know Americans do it everyday. We can stop these folks right now and do not. Oh it ai'nt just drivin drunk how bout murder robbery and rape! They do so much for society!

  • 2centsworth Mar 8, 2007

    and, while we're at it...since i'm a single mom, how about some free medical assistance & whatever else is available. or do i have to learn how to speak spanish first before i qualify for that???

  • 2centsworth Mar 8, 2007

    im a legal alien! but NOT from mexico. i speak the language and am proud to be living in a great country like this even though i did not leave mine because of poverty. anyhow, it burns my a$$ to see articles almost every day about illegal immigrants. i obey the laws and my kids grew up speaking the language, matter of fact, my language isnt even offered in high school for them to take as a foreign language. my 5 yr old daughter came home from day care the other day and told me that theyre teaching a little boy how to talk. i asked her what she's talking about. come to find out the kid does not speak english, only spanish, so the day care teacher has to teach that child english!!! you gotta be kidding me!!! if you wanna leave here then speak the language FIRST! how can they expect everybody to understand theirs? this is AMERICA. the language spoken is ENGLISH. maybe i should see how far i get if i only speak MY language?

  • pappybigtuna Mar 8, 2007

    Again, our focus has been taken away from the real tragedy - today a women, wife and mother will bury half of her family. Her spouse, her protector and provider - gone. Her child, son gone. Her losss is unmeasurable.
    For all of you do good liberals, now step up and provide for this woman, pay her bills, fix her front door, cut her grass, keep for from being lonely, and comfort at night.

  • r-n-r Mar 8, 2007

    These poor folks are so broke, but they can find the money for some budweisers and cars to ride around on while drinking them!

  • r-n-r Mar 8, 2007

    kma1005 I am damn sure worried about my pockets. People like you will not be happy until America is a third world dump. If you are in poverty why do you have a house full of kids. Come to America where you can suck the government teat.

  • anaconda Mar 8, 2007


  • luvtoflymycessna Mar 8, 2007