Illegal immigrants leave us a big tab

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 14, 2004

Staff Editorial

Local law enforcement officials are getting a good taste of what it’s like to be trapped in

the national game of international relations. At one level, at least, it appears we need

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more practice.

On Saturday, Oct. 9, an Hispanic man was apparently involved in a two-car crash on

Marengo County Road 54. As a result, Lonnie Louis Minor lost his life and family

members lost one of their beloved. Today, Montelongo sits in the Marengo County

Detention Center on $5,000 bond awaiting his first court date.

While Montelongo must go through our judicial process &045;&045; and must be tried and

convicted &045;&045; his arrest certainly insinuates probable cause that he was involved in the

fatal Saturday morning accident. State Troopers have openly said alcohol was involved in

that accident.

Our concern with law enforcement’s handling of this situation arises from the seemingly

reckless manner in which they handled an obvious suspect in the death of Minor. While

there is no larger issue at stake than when a life has been needlessly taken, this incident is

a frightening example of how some officials can become sidetracked when handling a

difficult situation.

The Demopolis Police Department, we believe, should be commended for taking prompt

action in arresting a suspect &045;&045; they eliminated the opportunity for a suspect to flee the

area and maybe the country.

State Troopers, we believe, apparently became sidetracked during their initial

investigation early Saturday morning. There’s simply no other way to explain why they

let a suspect who allegedly had alcohol in his system walk away from the wreckage.

While there are Troopers in every part of the state with specific training in dealing with

illegal immigrants, none of that training was evidenced in Marengo County on Saturday


For that matter, it’s not even a matter of training. Rather, it seems to us that Alabama and

the United States may have a systematic problem. Federal Immigration and

Naturalization officers were unavailable to advise state and local authorities. INS, now

under the umbrella of the federal Department of Homeland Security, didn’t seem to have

the ability to communicate with officials at a local level. For that, it’s understandable why

State Troopers were uncertain how to handle their suspect.

While that issue must be addressed, we also believe another possible injustice could be

done in the coming weeks and months.

It is a long-standing policy of the federal government to deport illegal immigrants guilty

of crimes against U.S. citizens. We believe there’s a fine line between protecting one’s

civil rights (and ensuring due process) and common sense.

If the suspect in custody is found guilty by a judge and jury, will there be due process?

Will justice be served if a person who allegedly came here illegally is allowed to leave

without facing punishment? And what will stop that person from coming back to our

country illegally?

These issues extend far beyond the governmental power of local officials. In a day where

businesses seek cheaper labor &045;&045; all over West Alabama &045;&045; it is important that citizens

understand the consequences.

Lonnie Minor’s family has learned in the hardest possible way.