PHOENIX — The mother of a police officer who was killed in a head-on collision with a wrong-way driver in May has entered the political fray on the issue of illegal immigration.
In an impassioned letter sent to President Obama late Wednesday, Sgt. Brandon Mendoza's mother, Mary Ann Mendoza, wrote of her anger that the driver, Raul Silva-Corona, was not deported two decades ago after he was convicted for crimes in Colorado.
"The prosecutors were 'lenient' on him and several charges were dismissed," she wrote. "When he was convicted of these crimes (in) 1994 and the government knew he was in the country illegally, why wasn't he deported? Why are any of these illegal criminals in this country?
"I am furious that the Federal Government allowed this criminal to stay in this country and KILL my son!"
Police records show Silva-Corona's blood-alcohol content was 0.24% on the night of the crash.
Mendoza's letter comes in the midst of another politically explosive immigration debate. On Tuesday, Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion to deal with the rush of undocumented minors crossing the U.S.-Mexican border.
In a Wednesday interview with The Arizona Republic, Mendoza said she's hoping to trigger a movement to shed light on the issue. She is working with an attorney on ways to get the word out.
"I am not going to stop at this letter," she said. "I have to do something in my son's memory to stop this kind of thing from happening."
Mendoza is calling for tighter laws that would prohibit undocumented immigrants from purchasing and registering vehicles in the U.S. without a driver's license and would remove undocumented immigrants who are convicted of a crime.
Mendoza said she takes no issue with law-abiding undocumented immigrants in the country.
"But when you go into another country ... and commit a crime, that's where I draw the line," she said.
Some excerpts from her letter:
I am writing this letter to you regarding illegal immigrants.
As a tax paying, law abiding citizen of the United States, I WANT my voice heard on this issue. My son, Sergeant Brandon Mendoza, an officer who was with the City of Mesa, Arizona police department, was killed in a tragic head on collision on May 12, 2014 by a wrong way driver on our freeways. This man happened to be an illegal immigrant, was in this country illegally, convicted of previous crimes, no Social Security number, no valid driver's license BUT he had purchased a vehicle and registered it to drive in Maricopa County Arizona. ...I have lived in Arizona most of my life. My son, Brandon Mendoza, was half Hispanic. It's not the color of skin that my son or I see, it's the person and how they conduct their lives. If you can't enter this country legally then you shouldn't be here. If you commit crimes, you should pay the time any of us as US Citizens would have to serve. Letting these illegal criminals out of our jails before their time is served and turning them loose on the streets to commit further crimes and KILL our loved ones is NOT ACCEPTABLE TO ME!! AND it shouldn't be acceptable to any US Citizen. Mr. President, you don't have the right to make this decision yourself......I want laws to change that would not allow illegal immigrants to purchase vehicles in our country and register them to drive them in our states WITHOUT having driver's licenses to drive them legally. How is this happening??? I want laws changed that will force the removal of illegal immigrants who break our laws. ...I want answers that make sense. I want answers from you personally as to why this criminal was allowed to stay in our country until he took my son's life.Sincerely,Mary Ann Mendoza