In Virginia Beach, a group has formed to fight illegal immigration, calls about the issue to the area’s congresswoman have swelled, and Ray and Colette Tranchant want to sue the government over what they call its failure to enforce immigration laws. The catalyst was a tragedy that roiled the Hampton Roads area and triggered stiffer local policies on illegal immigrants. In March 2007, the Tranchants’ daughter Tessa, 16, and her best friend, Alison Kunhardt, 17, were killed in a car crash caused by a drunk driver who had a police record and was in the country illegally, reports the Washington Post.
As national immigration politics increasingly become local and police reveal the legal status of more suspects, high-profile deaths caused by illegal immigrants are serving as powerful tipping points for community outrage. The tragedies often live on nationally as talking points for opponents of illegal immigration and as symbols on Web sites that list victims as if they were fallen soldiers in an invisible war. To those activists, the cases are stark reminders of a broken immigration system. Immigrant advocates counter that focusing on legal status brands all immigrants as villains, stoking misdirected tensions out of grief.