At a town-hall meeting billed as "The Criminal Face of Illegal Immigration" Thursday, host Phil Valentine said, "People are saying that all immigrants are hardworking and come here to do jobs that Americans won't do …. And a lot of them are." Then he cited statistics showing illegal immigrants make up a disproportionate portion of the federal prison population.
Valentine, a popular radio talk-show host, also offered examples of illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes in the U.S., speaking of "the devastation caused by illegal immigrants who come here to rape, murder, and run into folks and kill them." About 250 attended the standing-room-only gathering.
The topic of crime by illegal immigrants was highlighted in Middle Tennessee this year by the revelation that Gustavo Reyes Garcia, an illegal immigrant accused of killing a Mt. Juliet couple while driving drunk, had been jailed at least 14 times previously, four times for driving under the influence.
A Davidson County grand jury stated in a recent report that poor communication between local law enforcement and federal authorities was allowing some who are here illegally to commit crime after crime without being deported.
Many people at the meeting expressed frustration with the government's inability to control or stop illegal immigration. Some wondered how easy it was for illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses and asked whether people accused of selling licenses to illegal immigrants had been convicted.
State Rep. Donna Rowland, R-Murfreesboro, spoke about her efforts to pass legislation to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses or accessing all but emergency state health care.
Valentine introduced one person attending as Billy Ray Latham, a former banjo player on "The Andy Griffith Show" who had been hit head-on by an illegal immigrant as he was driving. He was permanently disabled by the incident and can no longer play banjo.
Thursday's forum was second in a series on illegal immigration Valentine plans to host.