Last Thursday morning, near the town of Edna, Texas, immigration officials and border agents involved in routine surveillance of Highway 59 between Laredo, Houston, and elsewhere in Texas conducted a routine traffic stop on a 2003 Ford Explorer visibly filled with passengers for a standard moving violation. At this time, the driver of the vehicle, later identified by Edna Police Chief Clinton Woodbridge as an American citizen, began to flee in the sport utility vehicle, ultimately causing a rollover accident resulting in his own death, the deaths of five illegal immigrant passengers seeking to cross the border, and the injury of ten other immigrants present in the vehicle. As federal border officials descended upon the scene of an SUV accident involving multiple injured passengers, which is located nearly ninety miles to the southwest of Houston, officers quickly discerned that the grossly over occupied vehicle was almost certainly involved in the smuggling of illegal Mexican nationals, as the SUV in this accident had after-market modifications indicative of seeking to include more passengers, including removal of seats in the vehicle.
In response to the mass casualty crash, officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement were drawn into the investigation, which later determined that the occupants were all adult, undocumented immigrants from various Latin American countries seeking residence in the United States. Of the six deceased occupants of the vehicle, ICE press officials identified three individuals, including the driver, as operatives in an ongoing smuggling operation. Police officials from Edna, Texas reported that the accident entailed the SUV losing control, exiting the roadway, rolling over in the process, and ultimately, ejecting no less than four of the occupants, with four individuals declared dead by Edna emergency responders at the scene.
Texas stands alone, amongst a handful of border states, for its role in coping with a disproportionate influx of illegal immigrants. In recent years, the Texas Department of Public Safety noted a doubling in illegal immigration arrests in the state in the past year, with smugglers increasingly willing to engage in grossly negligent and reckless conduct in the pursuit of profits relating to smuggling enterprises. For immigrants sustaining personal injuries during their illegal residence in the state of Texas, as well as most other US states, civil statutes exist permitting tort claims to be filed by the non-citizen against both other nationals, as well as US citizens, for torts occurring in a given state-jurisdiction. Likewise, illegal immigrants from any state can file suit against corporations and other liable business entities in the event of a viable tort claim per US state and federal statutes, as well as per traditional legal practices such as comity protections.
However, as a plaintiff in any personal injury case stemming from a car accident, legal challenges are likely and will require the help of an experienced attorney. Likewise, for illegal immigration, an additional layer of consideration must be addressed by informed legal counsel concerning the immigration status of the litigant and its potential role in a given tort claim, as well as concerning avoiding the unilateral deportation of the claimant in light of public exposure by filing claims. Having legal counsel will prove immensely beneficial in ensuring that your potential lawsuit is filed appropriately given the totality of facts and circumstances surrounding a given case.