On April 29, Armando Garcia, a Mexican national illegally in California, allegedly shot and killed Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff David March during a routine traffic stop.
Garcia, twice deported and previously charged on two counts of attempted murder, fled to Mexico.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley has asked the federal government to seek a diplomatic solution with Mexico to extradite Garcia. But the Mexican government is unlikely to consider any proposal that does not include reducing the charges against Garcia from first-degree murder to manslaughter or assault with a deadly weapon.
Refusals from Mexico to extradite violent criminals are par for the course.
According to the Mexican Supreme Court, a sentence of either death or life imprisonment if imposed by U.S. courts would violate the Mexican constitution and is "cruel and unusual punishment."
Mexico has become a safe haven for many nationals who commit violent crimes in the U.S. Here are a few examples:
- Daniel Perez, who allegedly shot his estranged wife and killed her father. Perez had prior convictions for attempted first-degree murder, spousal battery, kidnapping and stalking.
- Alvaro Luna Jara is charged with the murder of a 12-year-old boy and the attempted murder of three others. Although Jara is not a Mexican national, Mexico refused to extradite him because his parents are.
- Juan Manuel Casillas allegedly shot (in the back) and killed his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend and her 15-year-old female cousin on their way to high-school.
U.S. prosecutors have four unsatisfactory options:
- Refuse to seek extradition and thereby let murderers escape scot-free.
- Seek extradition but comply with Mexico's demands for reduced charges.
- Seek extradition, refuse assurances and have the matter convert to an Article IV prosecution under Mexican penal law.
- Seek prosecution under Article IV as above.
In reality, prosecutors are subject to the Mexican government's whim.
Amazingly, the U.S. federal government, despite written requests from all 50 states' attorney generals, has not lifted a finger to help.
Recently, Cooley visited Attorney General John Ashcroft to plead his case. Follow-up letters to Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and all other 98 U.S. senators have been mostly ignored.
If the federal government isn't interested in justice on behalf of the victims of heinous crimes, what is it interested in?
For one thing, 18 members of the House Judiciary Committee are more concerned about protecting the "rights" of criminal aliens.
HR 1452, ludicrously named "The Family Reunification Act of 2002," would repeal mandatory detention of criminal aliens and create a loophole that would allow certain criminal aliens to avoid deportation. Those already deported could return to the U.S. to pursue reinstatement.
Among those who would benefit from HR 1452, which passed committee, are those convicted of assault, arson, robbery, child pornography, alien smuggling and document fraud.
House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo. has a more preposterous idea - an amnesty for 10 million illegal aliens.
Because so many millions live in the U.S. illegally, any amnesty would absolutely include terrorists and criminals. This, of course, is much less important to Gephardt than the prospect of Latino votes for Democratic candidates.
Here's the sad summary of this column. When Mexico wants something from the U.S. (driver's licenses and in-state tuition for illegal aliens, consular identification cards, amnesty) waves of delegations come north to lobby hard. The U.S. government snaps to attention.
But if the U.S. wants something from Mexico as basic as the extradition of a cop-killer, we get the cold shoulder.
As for all of that talk from President George W. Bush and the other transparent phonies in D.C. about Homeland Security, you can forget it.
Votes count more.
Joe Guzzardi, an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly opinion column since 1988. He can be reached via e-mail.