Local News

Official: Immigration program puts children at risk

Posted July 30, 2008

— The chairman of a state panel that reviews child fatalities said Wednesday that a federal program to have local law enforcement help combat illegal immigration could put children at risk.

The so-called 287-G program trains local law enforcement officers in how to determine whether people charged with crimes are in the U.S. illegally and how to file paperwork to begin deportation proceedings.Thirty-eight officers, including 18 Wake County detention officers and 10 Cumberland County sheriff's deputies, recently completed 287-G training.

Tom Vitaglione, chairman of the state Child Fatality Task Force, said he fears that officers who participate in the program will focus more on someone's immigration status when making an arrest than on protecting innocent children involved in a case.

"Incentives are on identification and deportation rather than protection of the children, and that worries us," Vitaglione said. "We just worry that we're gonna have some real tragedies come down the line."

Last month, an Alamance County deputy arrested a Hispanic woman after a traffic stop on Interstate 85, leaving her three children in a car along the highway. Their father picked them up eight hours later.

Authorities said the woman, who identified herself as Maria Chavira Ventura, spoke limited English and was driving with expired tags and without any form of identification, registration or proof of insurance. She gave the deputy an address in Burlington and said someone could pick up the children, authorities said.

Ventura, whose real name is Maria Perez-Mejia, actually was traveling from her home in western North Carolina to Maryland to visit the children's father when she was stopped. A man from her church who was traveling with the family left the children shortly after the deputy took their mother off to jail.

"While a law was not broken, a policy was not abridged, perhaps judgment was clouded," Vitaglione said, blaming the emphasis on immigration enforcement for the mistake.

Perez-Mejia is in the process of being deported. Her three children remain with relatives in the U.S.

William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration, said he sympathizes with the children of illegal immigrants, but said they're not the victims.

"The problems that are being caused for these families and for American citizens are the results of the bad choices and criminal behavior of illegal aliens," Gheen added. "The real victims of illegal immigration are the Americans that are losing their lives, their jobs, their wages."


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  • denverbob234 Aug 1, 2008

    The mother, and only the mother put these kids at risk and she needs to be charged and prosecuted appropriately. Send them all home and none of their kids will be at risk. No sympathy here

  • NCKen Aug 1, 2008

    I am losing track of the number of stories about illegal aliens with the same theme. "Oh, the poor children, families, etc. of the illegal immigrants who are arrrested." For every one of these stories there should be another story about a family grieving from their loss of a aunt, uncle, parent, who was killed by an illegal alien. There should be a story of ID fraud, theft, DUI, assault, and numerous other violations. Most people in NC don't care about illegal aliens who are deported. THEY are the ones making these choices. Let them face the consequences. I feel no sadness and neither do most.
    Parents are responsible for their children and the situations they expose their children to. We have become Mexico's welfare system. They need to go back to their original country and take their children with them and come back to the US the legal way.

  • zanerx Aug 1, 2008

    "Why don't we go ahead and liberalize the immigration and visa laws greatly. ... and all you people who keep screaming "ILLEGAL! ILLEGAL!" won't have anything to scream about anymore"

    And how does this solve the problem? imback
    imback, it may not solve the problem, if there really is one, but at least we could get past the smokescreen of whether the immigration is "illegal" and start talking about the real issue - how much immigration is appropriate. Plus, it would help expose the racists/bigots.

  • bettyboopr2 Aug 1, 2008

    It wasn't the law that left the kids, it was the man that was with the "ILLEGAL" mom. If she was not here illegally she would not have gotten pulled over. The car she was driving wasn't even legal to be on the road. I have no sympathy for them. Send them all back to wherever they come from. It is time for the American people to stand up and take back OUR country.

  • ifcdirector Aug 1, 2008

    How can we put liberal carpetbaggers' jobs in jeopardy? We need entirely new representation in government because quite obviously there is a disconnect greater than the Grand Canyon between local, state, and federal officials and the electorate on this issue.

  • mmania Aug 1, 2008


    Hope you have a good time on Clueless Island, cause you're going to be by yourself.

  • GWALLY Aug 1, 2008

    story should read....'Illigal Aliens' put their children at risk...LE has nothing to do with risk factor these illigals assume when the enter the US ILLIGALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • spartanpirate Aug 1, 2008

    It makes me so angry to go to websites of NC or Federal Government agencies and see that there is a choice of spanish. If they can't speak and read our language they need to not come here in the first place. No employer should hire them if they can't speak and write good english. That is what the language here is. I hate it when I'm in a store or in a restaurant and here them speak no english.

    Ship all illegals and THEIR CHILDREN back to wherever they came from and build 20 foot walls along our borders with lots of barbed wire on top and another 20' wide barbed wire on our side of the borders. That may stop a few. If they make it over the wall then they will certainly know that they are not welcome. Patrol those borders and immediately take them to the nearest legal crossing and put them back on the other side. The word will get out and fewer of them will try to cross our borders.

  • imback Aug 1, 2008

    "Why don't we go ahead and liberalize the immigration and visa laws greatly. Then it will be much easier for immigrants who want to come here and work to do so, they will be incorporated into the legal and cultural fabric, there will be fewer "illegals" to capture and deport, and all you people who keep screaming "ILLEGAL! ILLEGAL!" won't have anything to scream about anymore"

    And how does this solve the problem? If anything it encourages *more* illegal immigration. Actually, if we could deport people like you to 'clueless island", maybe the illegal problem could actually be solved by the rest of the adults. (BTW, since illegals suposedly do the work no one else wants to do, wont making them legal simply mean they will want better jobs and those jobs they were doing wil have to be filled by illegals?)

  • gordonbabe Aug 1, 2008

    One more thing... What about all the families piling into one house? They fit more people into a single family dwelling than the housing code allows; they can't fit actual beds in the rooms so they buy 2x4s and nail them to the walls and against doors. In my neighborhood a couple of years ago, there were several children burned to death when the home caught fire but they only had one exit through the front door because the other door had beds built against it. You can't tell me they didn't know NOT to do something that stupid.

    Cause of the fire? an extension cord running under a throw rug that was running a window AC unit. End result? 4 or 5 children dead and 1 or 2 adults, I don't remember the specific numbers, but did they learn? No, they continue to do this.