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Who were the victims of illegal immigrants Trump named at the RNC?

Allison Graves
By Allison Graves July 22, 2016
By Neelesh Moorthy July 22, 2016

Accepting the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump reinforced his desire to crack down on illegal immigration with emotional anecdotes of people he said had been killed by undocumented immigrants.

Three parents — Mary Ann Mendoza, Sabine Durden, and Jamiel Shaw — spoke about their children on the first night of the Republican National Convention Monday and called for stronger immigration enforcement. They also called for an end to so-called "sanctuary cities," which Trump said Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton supports.

"They're just three brave representatives of many thousands who have suffered so gravely," Trump said. "Of all my travels in this country, nothing has affected me more, nothing even close I have to tell you, than the time I have spent with the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to violence spilling across our borders, which we can solve. We have to solve it."

Not everyone has heard of the people Trump referred to, so we took a look at these incidents, based on news reports, officials statements and other sources. Trump mentioned five victims, two who were gunshot victims and three who died in auto accidents involving alleged drunken driving.   

Sarah Root

The first mention Trump gave was to Sarah Root, who was killed in January — one day after graduating college — when her vehicle was hit by a drunk driver.

"One such border-crosser was released and made his way to Nebraska," Trump said. "There, he ended the life of an innocent young girl named Sarah Root. She was 21 years-old, and was killed the day after graduating from college with a 4.0 grade point average. Her killer was then released a second time, and he is now a fugitive from the law."

The drunk driver accused of killing Root was 19-year old Eswin Mejia from Honduras, who had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit. At the time, Douglas County, Nebraska police officers said Mejia was not a U.S. citizen.

During a Feb. 4 hearing, Judge Jeffrey Marcuzzo set a $50,000 bond. Mejia paid it the next day, and has not been seen since. A bench warrant has now been issued for his arrest.

Before Mejia was released on Feb 5., Sarah Root’s parents — Michelle and Scott Root — asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold him, but the request was denied because Mejia had "no prior significant misdemeanor or felony conviction record."

Mejia missed a 2014 court date in regards to a traffic violation — driving the wrong way on a one-way street — but was taken into custody after pleading guilty to a traffic offense in May 2015. Neither charge was a felony.

Since then, Nebraska Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, both Republicans, introduced "Sarah’s Law." The law, which has not been passed, would require ICE to take into a custody any illegal immigration also accused of a crime resulting in death or serious injury.

Brandon Mendoza

One of three parents who spoke on day one of the convention was Mary Ann Mendoza, whose son, Sgt. Brandon Mendoza, was killed in Phoenix in May 2014.

Brandon Mendoza’s car was hit head-on by Raul Silva-Corona, a drunk driver. Silva-Corona died in the crash.

Police officials at the time said Silva-Corona had prior criminal history. He took a plea deal in 2002 for charges of burglary and assault, and he also pled guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge in Colorado in 1994.

In July 2014, Mary Mendoza sent a letter to President Barack Obama, writing she was furious that Silva-Corona was allowed to remain in the country.

"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!!," she wrote.

Mary Mendoza has since been vocal about illegal immigration and the loss of her son, speaking at a Trump rally in July and again at the RNC.

"My son’s life was stolen at the hands of an illegal alien," she said. "It’s time we had an administration that cares more about Americans than illegals. A vote for Hillary is putting of all our children’s lives at risk."

Dominic Durden

Sabine Durden’s son Dominic Durden, a 911 dispatcher in Moreno Valley, Cal., was killed in July 2012, when his motorcycle was struck by a speeding car.

The driver was Juan Tzun Lopez, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala who was arrested at the scene. Lopez was convicted on two counts of drunk driving and one for felony grand theft auto in 2009.

Lopez was sentenced to nine months in jail, a work-release program and five years probation. After being released in May 2013, he was taken into ICE custody and eventually was deported in March 2014.

Sabine Durden also spoke at the RNC, echoing many of Mendoza’s sentiments and endorsing Trump’s stance on illegal immigration.

"I have been talking about illegal immigration since 2012 when he was killed, but no one listened until Donald Trump," she said. "Donald Trump is not only my hero but he’s my lifesaver."

Jamiel Shaw Jr.

More than eight years ago, Jamiel Shaw, a 17-year-old high school football star, was shot in the head in Arlington Heights, Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Police Department said Shaw was walking home when two Latino men exited a white vehicle and approached him, asking him what gang he was affiliated with. Shaw was fatally shot before he answered. Gang member Pedro Espinoza, an undocumented immigrant, was convicted of killing Shaw in 2012 and sentenced to death.

Shaw’s father, Jamiel Shaw Sr., praised Trump and called to build the wall during the first night of the Republican convention.

"Only Trump called me on the phone one day to see how I was doing." Shaw said. "Only Trump will stand against terrorists and end illegal immigration."

Kate Steinle

Trump also mentioned 32-year-old Kate Steinle, who was fatally shot on a San Francisco pier in July 2015, allegedly by illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. (There are multiple variation of his name, according to reports.)

Steinle’s death ignited the immigration debate over San Francisco's designation as a sanctuary city. The definition of sanctuary cities varies across the U.S., but in general such cities are accused of policies limiting law enforcement's cooperation with federal immigration officials.

Lopez-Sanchez, originally from Mexico, was deported five times prior to being convicted for killing Steinle. Her parents filed a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the fall. 

According to the suit, Steinle’s death was put in motion after the San Francisco County Sheriff’s Department approved a policy that ceased communication about undocumented immigrants with immigration authorities.

After the memo was released, the San Francisco County Sheriff’s Department held Sanchez for a bench warrant stemming from a 20-year-old marijuana sales case, but the case was dismissed. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it asked the Sheriff’s department via a detainer request to notify ICE if Sanchez was released, but it said that the Sheriff's Department did not uphold the request.

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Who were the victims of illegal immigrants Trump named at the RNC?