It started on the evening of February 22, 2008. Jose Vieyra was driving out of a Toyota dealership onto the eastbound feeder of Houston's IH10 when he hit a fast moving SUV.
Vierya had come to the U.S. on a visa in 2006. He had a driver's license. But everything turned upside down for him after the accident. He made the mistake of running in to the wrong person, a Harris County Sheriff's Deputy.
Vieyra couldn't have been going very fast if he had just driven out of a parking lot. But at first, all that was said was that Vierya was probably undocumented, that the deceased Deputy had 20 years on the force and that he was "working undercover."
The community was outraged. The media repeatedly published photos of Miller's smashed up SUV. He (Miller) had a wife and children. The newspaper reported that there was "no sign of drinking or drugs"
There was no mention of Vierya's family. What was emphasized was the terrible loss of Officer Miller and a number of details on how people are able to get immigrant visas - at first investigators were not sure Vierya was documented or not. However, nowadays people are assumed undocumented until proven to be legal residents - so he was taken in.
This post is not to make less of the Miller family's loss. It is about how immigrants are often targeted for supposedly committing atrocities - often without sufficient information.
p.s. It was almost impossible to find the Houston Chronicle article on the accident from February 23, 2008. The newspapers search engine did not show the article. The link to the article was posted on the net on several different web pages, but the links were no longer valid. I finally found it through a large library - not from "searching" for names other details, but from going into February 23, 2008 and checking each article one by one. It would be interesting to find out if the article was removed before or after it was found that Miller was heavily intoxicated at the time of the crash.
February 23, 2008
(Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle)
U.S. Immigration officials could not determine Friday whether the driver of the truck that killed a Harris County Sheriff's deputy had a valid visa that would have allowed the Mexican national to live or work in the country.
Jose Jesus Vieyra, 56, is charged with criminally negligent homicide in a collision that killed Deputy Craig Miller Thursday night on a Katy Freeway access road.
Although ICE officials originally identified Vieyra as an illegal immigrant, the agency said late Friday that it could not confirm if his visa - issued at a border checkpoint - is still valid.
It is also unclear when or exactly where it was issued. Vieyra's case illustrates the federal government's difficulty tracking foreign visitors.
Vieyra is being held in the Harris County Jail in lieu of $35,000 bail, said Capt. John Martin, spokesman for the Sheriff's Department.
Miller, a 20-year veteran with the department, was working undercover when the fatal crash occurred about 7:20 p.m. Thursday, Martin said.
Family, friends and fellow officers mourned Miller's sudden death and remembered him Friday as a funny man and devoted father. Miller, 43, is survived by a wife, Michelle, and two young children.
"If he wasn't a police officer, he would have been a great comedian on Saturday Night Live," said Brenham resident Ross Martella, a friend of Miller's since they attended Stratford High School in the early 1980s. "He was a nice person."
Martella, who works in the oilfield services business, said Miller worked his way up through the ranks, starting as a jailer.
"And if someone called the law on you, you'd have been lucky if Craig was the officer involved," he said. "He was fair and he had common sense and he would listen to both sides."
No sign of drinking or drugs
Authorities said Miller was traveling east on the access road along Interstate 10 West near Mason Road when Vieyra pulled out of a driveway at the Don McGill Toyota dealership.
Vieyra drove across three lanes into the path of the sport utility vehicle Miller was driving, Martin said. The SUV ran into the truck, became airborne and landed on a raised concrete embankment separating the feeder road from the freeway, Martin said.
Firefighters had to cut through the wreckage to get the deputy out. He died before authorities could rush him to the hospital.
"The basis of the charge is that (Vieyra) failed to yield the right-of-way," Martin said.
He said there was no indication that Vieyra was drunk or under the influence of drugs.
Vieyra had a valid driver's license at the time of the crash, Martin said.
It's unclear, however, who owns the truck he was driving Thursday night.
Employees at the McGill Toyota dealership said Vieyra did not work for the company. Dozens of vendors drop off and pick up merchandise and supplies daily at the dealership, the workers said.
Immigration detainer filed
As the investigation continues, officials are working to determine Vieyra's immigration status.
Late Friday, ICE officials said they learned that Vieyra, a Mexican citizen, had entered the country on a visitor's visa.
"Initially I was told he was an `entry without inspection,' but in the last 15 minutes I've been told he does have a visa with multiple entries," John Gaudioso, deputy special agent in charge of the Houston ICE office, said Friday afternoon. "But we have not seen his passport, or the visa. So it's still under inquiry."
Gaudioso added that an immigration detainer has been filed against Vieyra allowing for his possible deportation.
"Depending on what happens with the county's investigation and prosecution, he could be subject to removal if he is convicted of a crime, and if the crime is considered an aggravated felony," Gaudioso said.
Driver's license clean
Deputy David Crain, spokesman for the Sheriff's Department, said Vieyra's Texas driver's license expires on his birthday in 2014. Crain said the license does not have any restrictions, and there were no traffic violations on his record. Vieyra apparently has no criminal record in Harris County.
There was no response at the home where the Sheriff's Department said Vieyra resides in northwest Harris County.
In Austin, Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange said a foreign citizen in the state legally can obtain a driver's license.
The DPS Web site listed more than 25 immigration documents that could be used to obtain a driver's license, including a B1 or B2 visitor's visa, also known as a border crossing card.
To obtain a border crossing card, applicants must submit biometric information including fingerprints and photos, and pass a State Department background check followed by a personal interview.
Late Friday a Harris County Sheriff's deputy sat in a parked squad car outside the Miller home on a quiet cul de sac of brick homes in Katy. He said the family did not want to speak to the media.
Miller, who joined the department in August 1987, was assigned to the Investigative Support Unit in April 2006, Martin said.
"I can't even imagine what the family must be going through," Martin said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them."
It was the Sheriff's Department's first death in the line of duty since 2002.
Visitation for Miller will be from 4-9 p.m. Sunday, at Memorial Oaks Funeral Home, 13001 Katy Freeway.
The funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at Second Baptist Church's West Campus, 19449 Katy Freeway.
100 Club taking donations
The 100 Club is accepting donations to its "Survivor's Fund" on behalf of the deputy's family. The Houston-based organization's fund supports the relatives of officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.
Note: jennifer.leahy@chron; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org Chronicle reporters Lindsay Wise, Dale Lezon and Susan Carroll contributed to this report.
article taken from Pro-Quest