Source: News Observer
When Eliseo Hernandez came to the United States 30 years ago, he thought he drove better after a few beers. Driving drunk had been normal back in Mexico, he said. But Hernandez, 54, learned of its perils firsthand. He quit the practice after falling asleep at the wheel and hitting a tree 18 years ago.It appears every time the beans are counted we get the same answer.
Then, last year, a young Hispanic man who authorities say was drunk nearly killed Hernandez’s only son, Diego, in a crash on a rural Johnston County road. Eliseo Hernandez’s daughter, who was nine months pregnant, lost her unborn child in the accident.
Hernandez has spent the past year following Diego through four hospitals and 14 brain surgeries. Diego only recently began to smile again and might never walk.
Hernandez said he hopes his painful journey will teach his friends and family a lesson. Car accidents are the top killer of Hispanics in North Carolina, and the disproportionate number of alcohol-related arrests and wrecks are an embarrassment to a minority already beleaguered by hard feelings over illegal immigration.
“It makes the Mexicans look bad, very bad,” Hernandez said. “The American people say ‘Oh, it’s just another Hispanic, the same as the others.’ ”
In 2005, there were 37 alcohol-related crashes caused by Hispanic drivers for every 10,000 Hispanics in the state, according to the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. That is more than three times the rate of alcohol-related crashes among non-Hispanics.
Last month, a Johnston County father and son died in a fiery crash authorities say was caused by Luciano Tellez, 31, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. Dwane Braswell, 35, and his son Jerry, 9, were riding in a tractor-trailer cab on N.C. 210 in the Cleveland community of Johnston County when Tellez struck the tractor and rolled it into a ditch, where it caught fire.
Empty beer cans were found in Tellez’ car, but authorities say it is impossible to know whether he was drunk.
It was the latest in a string of such accidents caused by Hispanic men. In February in Salisbury, a woman who was eight months pregnant and her unborn child were killed. In October, it was two college students and a high school boy. In January 2006, a man from El Salvador killed a Hillsborough woman in a head-on crash and fled, leaving an injured passenger in his own car.
Bobby Dunn, who counsels Spanish-speaking DWI convicts in Johnston and Wilson counties, said his clients are often young men far from home with money in their pockets for the first time. Many were too poor to have cars in Mexico, so they have little experience behind the wheel.
H/T immigration watchdog
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