When federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents flashed emergency lights at an SUV just before 7 a.m. Tuesday in rural California, the driver initially pulled over.
But when agents emerged from their vehicle, the driver took off again, according to a Delano Police Department release. The SUV drifted onto a dirt shoulder at high speed, overturned and slammed into a power pole. Santo Hilario Garcia, 35, and Marcelina Garcia Profecto, 33, died in the crash, police said.
Both were residents of Delano, a rural Kern County town 30 miles north of Bakersfield in California’s Central Valley. United Farm Workers told KBAK the two were a couple and left behind six children. ICE could not be reached for comment on the couple’s immigration status.
Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants’ rights at the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement that ICE agents have recently stepped up stops along rural roads in the Central Valley in unmarked vehicles.
“In recent weeks, we have received numerous reports from Kern County and other parts of the Central Valley of ICE staking out the roads farmworkers travel to get to work and pulling them over during early morning hours without any lawful basis, resulting in numerous unlawful arrests of residents,” she said in a statement.
Pasquarella blamed the “horrible tragedy” on ICE’s “inhumane tactics and the fear it provokes in hardworking people who stand to lose everything if they are deported.”
It was not clear from Delano police reports whether the ICE agents who pulled over the SUV were in an unmarked vehicle.
President Donald Trump’s administration has been fiercely critical of California’s status as a sanctuary state, as well as several California cities that also have adopted sanctuary laws forbidding local officials from cooperating with ICE.
On March 6, Attorney General Jeff Sessions filed suit against the state over its sanctuary policies. Speaking in Sacramento the next day, Sessions declared, “there is no secession” and called on the state to “Stop protecting lawbreakers and giving all officers more dangerous work to do so that a few politicians can score political points on the backs of officer safety.”