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Commentary: Don't confuse immigrant victims with villains

  • Story Highlights
  • Navarrette: Immigrant's beating death not parallel to triple killing by immigrant
  • San Francisco mistaken identity killings should be punished severely, he says
  • Some "sanctuary cities" forbid police from cooperating with immigration agents
  • Police should alert agents when they arrest illegal immigrant, Navarrette says
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By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
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SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- Last week, I wrote about what appears to be a ghastly hate crime in the small town of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, where teenagers allegedly beat to death a 25-year-old illegal immigrant named Luis Ramirez after spewing racial slurs and telling him to go back to Mexico.

Ruben Navarrette sees no parallel between immigrant's death and triple killing in which immigrant is charged.

Hundreds of readers responded. The overwhelming majority condemned the attacks and expressed sympathy for the victim's family. A relative handful actually defended the teenagers and tastelessly insisted that Ramirez "got what he deserved" because he was in the country illegally.

Then there are those who demanded to know why I hadn't written about another high-profile story involving yet another illegal immigrant -- this one looking less like a victim than a villain.

According to authorities in San Francisco, California, it was a case of mistaken identity that prompted 21-year-old Edwin Ramos to fire an AK-47 assault weapon on 49-year-old Anthony Bologna and his two sons, 20-year-old Michael and 16-year-old Matthew -- killing all three. Ramos is an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, and a reputed member of the vicious gang MS-13 who may have thought the Bolognas were part of a rival gang. Some are blaming the city's sanctuary policy, which they say allowed Ramos to avoid deportation despite three prior arrests.

Do you see the connection between what occurred in Shenandoah and what happened in San Francisco? If so, would you mind clueing me in? The readers who brought up the Ramos case may have been looking for an assurance that I felt as much outrage over a case where the victims were white, and the alleged assailant Latino, as I did when that color scheme was reversed.

No problem. If Ramos were convicted of the charges, a swift and public execution would be too good for him. This fiend should have been deported long ago. Now, he should be kept in this country so he can face our system of justice.

I'm the son of a retired police officer, a supporter of the death penalty, and a proponent of deporting illegal immigrants. And, frankly, I don't need lectures on crime and punishment. I especially don't need them from those who make excuses for employers who commit the crime of knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. Nor do I need them from those who take the idea of punishment so lightly that they demand amnesty for disgraced ex-border patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who were convicted of shooting an unarmed Mexican drug smuggler and then attempting to cover it up.

As for sanctuary cities, let's be careful with the term. It fits in San Francisco, where in 1989, the Board of Supervisors barred local officials, including police, from cooperating with federal authorities in the deportation of illegal immigrants. That policy is now under review.

But the term sanctuary doesn't apply in those cities where there's been no formal declaration but police, on their own initiative, simply refuse to act as surrogate immigration officers.

Some people want local police to enforce federal immigration law by trying to determine the legal status of anyone they come across in the course of their duties. That would destroy whatever trust exists between immigrant communities and local police and discourage immigrants from reporting crimes. In turn, that would make those communities vulnerable to scoundrels and predators and cause more crime.

There's a middle ground here. If police arrest someone for another crime and determine that he is in the country illegally, then they should contact immigration authorities. But, the point is, they shouldn't roam the streets impersonating them.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist. Read his column here.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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