Grief Fuels Father’s Fight to End Illegal Immigration

Brenda Gazzar
April 30, 2017
The Mercury News

WESTLAKE VILLAGE – Don Rosenberg is a lifelong liberal who may have only one thing in common politically with President Donald Trump: his battle against illegal immigration.

Rosenberg became an activist on the issue after his 25-year-old son, Drew, was killed in a 2010 collision in San Francisco with a Honduran immigrant who had entered the country illegally, but been granted temporary immigration status. The Westlake Village resident now spends much of his spare time firing off letters to journalists, sounding off on TV programs such as Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” and pressing government agencies to release data related to illegal immigration.

“I’m trying to stop this from happening to other people,” Rosenberg said of losing his son Drew, a street-savvy law-school student who took a keen interest in news and politics like his father.

Rosenberg was among families from across the nation who attended the official launch of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. The office is designed to support victims of crimes committed by “criminal aliens.”

“I’m really happy they’re doing this because I know what my wife and I had to go through — you’re finding your way because no one was really giving us any help,” the retired entertainment executive said.

Rosenberg, a former Democrat who today doesn’t identify with any political party, usually receives several calls a month from bereaved family members seeking information about a criminal living in the country illegally or they are searching for legal and financial help in the wake of a crime. He shares his personal experience, he said, and now will refer them to the VOICE office for greater support.

“The illegal aliens are not victims; they are the perpetrators,” Rosenberg said. “Many of them are nice, hardworking people … but there’s more than enough crime” that they commit.

In November, Rosenberg spearheaded a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs in order to obtain crime statistics involving undocumented immigrants. The suit, filed by the Washington D.C.-based Immigration Reform Law Institute — the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform — has resulted in the release of some data that he and the nonprofit law firm are now reviewing.

“What I’ve hoped to accomplish all along is to get the truth out so people can make the decisions based on truth and not lies,” Rosenberg said.

Julie Axelrod, director of investigations at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, said they are seeking the raw data underlying a Government Accountability Office report published in 2010 about non-U.S. citizens in federal prison.

“We’re trying to get to the best understanding of these real dimensions of illegal alien crime,” Axelrod said.

Rosenberg has also submitted a declaration in a federal lawsuit filed by the institute in October against Homeland Security on behalf of Californians for Population Stabilization. That lawsuit is seeking to compel the federal agency to evaluate the environmental impacts of both legal and illegal immigration under the National Environmental Policy Act with the hope that it will lead to “better policies,” Axelrod said.

In the affidavit, Rosenberg lamented the increase in population and loss of open space, wildlife sightings and hiking trails that decades ago surrounded his home on the western edge of Los Angeles County. Driving into the city of Los Angeles often takes two hours due to heavy traffic, he said, when he used to be able to do it in a half hour.

Rosenberg said for much of his life, he hadn’t realized how much the government “got away” with its mass immigration policy “by hiding from (its citizenry) the scale of immigration and its consequences.” But that changed after Roberto Galo, an unlicensed driver, struck and killed his son as he rode his motorcycle, running over his body multiple times in an apparent attempt to flee the scene, he said.

Galo had entered the country illegally around 1999, Rosenberg said, but had been given Temporary Protective Status, which allows a foreign national to live and work in the U.S. until the conditions of their home country improve.

The temporary legal status was granted to eligible Hondurans following the destruction of Hurricane Mitch in the fall of 1998 and other environmental disasters and is still in effect for those who successfully reapply.

A jury convicted Galo of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and driving without a license after the judge in the case reduced the felony charge, saying he believed the driver had panicked, Rosenberg said. Galo was sentenced to six months in jail and was ultimately deported in 2013 following intense lobbying by Rosenberg.

The pain of the ordeal, he said, was sharpened by the words and actions of police and prosecutors whom Rosenberg said seemed to “care more about the illegal aliens” than they did about the victims.

But Rosenberg, who has two other grown children, often wishes he never became entangled in this issue because it can be so “debilitating.” The sorrow of losing Drew hits him multiple times a day, stopping him from functioning at times, he said.

“People say time heals all wounds — bullshit,” Rosenberg said. “It will heal a cut on my arm from a rosebush, but this never heals.”

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