Man Deported Three Times Faces New Charges in Raleigh Crash

Thomas McDonald, News Observer, January 31, 2013

Alejandro Ramirez-Castaneda has been deported from the United States three times since 2008. But he managed to make it back to Raleigh, where police say he was driving drunk when he got into an accident this month that severely injured the other driver.

It’s the fifth time Ramirez-Castaneda, 25, has been charged with a crime in Wake County, dating back to 2007. Once the case has worked its way through the legal system and he serves his sentence, if any, Ramirez-Castaneda will be sent back to Mexico again, immigration officials say.

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The accident took place on Jan. 20, as Ramirez-Castaneda’s SUV crossed the center line on Garner Road and hit another vehicle head-on, according to Raleigh police. He ran before officers arrived, police say, and was arrested later and charged with driving while impaired, resisting a public officer, felony serious injury by vehicle and felony hit and run.

Despite his previous arrests, Ramirez-Castaneda has not been prosecuted for the local charges that led to his deportations, dating back to 2008. Wake County District Attorney Colin Willoughby said he did not recall his office’s involvement with Ramirez-Castaneda. But he said because he had been charged with minor or misdemeanor offenses, including DWI and assault, prosecutors probably determined it was better to “get him out of the country so he can’t do any more harm.

“If he had been charged with a sexual assault, armed robbery or even breaking into a house, then we may have tried to convict him before he got deported,” Willoughby said. “But for minor offenses and misdemeanors, we probably agreed to let immigration take precedence rather than let him stay in jail a month or two or be out walking the street.”

Now Willoughby’s office has reinstated some of those charges, including the original assault charge that led to his first deportation.

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It’s not clear when Ramirez-Castaneda arrived in Wake County, but his troubles with the law here began on Aug. 19, 2007, when a Raleigh patrol officer found him asleep behind the wheel of a car at 6:12 a.m. The officer charged Ramirez-Castaneda with DWI and carrying a concealed weapon. More than four months later, he was charged with failure to appear in court and driving without a license.

But none of those charges brought him to the attention of immigration officials, not even after he was convicted of DWI in February 2008.

It wasn’t until Sept. 20, 2008, when Raleigh police charged him with assault on a female that someone in the Wake County jail notified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that Ramirez-Castaneda might be in the country illegally. A little more than a month later, federal officials drove him to the border crossing at Hidalgo, Texas, and walked him across the Rio Grande River to Reynosa, Mexico, said Vincent Picard, an immigration spokesman in Atlanta.

Less than a year later, in August 2009, federal agents patrolling the Arizona-Mexico border nabbed Ramirez-Castaneda in the desert as he was trying to return to the United States. From Nogales, Ariz., he was walked back into Nogales, Mexico, on Sept. 8, 2009, Picard said.

But Ramirez-Castaneda managed to end up back in Raleigh. On Oct. 24, 2011, Raleigh police charged him with driving while impaired, resisting a public officer, and hit and run. {snip}

A little less than a month later, Ramirez-Castaneda was again deported at Hidalgo, Texas, Picard said.

Police did not encounter Ramirez-Castaneda again until the accident on Garner Road this month. {snip}

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Picard, the immigration agency spokesman, said immigration authorities could charge Ramirez-Castaneda with felony re-entry into the United States. He said federal authorities don’t do that for every case because the probable large number of arrests would overwhelm the court system.

“We tend to focus our resources on people who commit violent crimes and then re-enter the country,” he said. “Felony hit and run with injury is definitely someone we are going to be taking a look at. The charges in this case are similar to the cases we would consider for prosecution.”

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