A lot of Americans are appalled that a deported illegal alien who killed four children in a horrific 2008 school bus crash in the rural Minnesota town of Cottonwood has been found living in the U.S. once again. Olga Marina Franco del Cid, 35, a Guatemalan native, ran a stop sign on February 18, 2008 and slammed into a school bus full of children. Four youngsters ranging in age from nine to 13 died.
Franco del Cid served eight years in prison for the crash and was deported in 2016. Minnesota’s Star Tribune newspaper reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials received a tip that Franco del Cid had moved back to Minnesota. She was apprehended November 26 at her residence in a town only three hours from Cottonwood. She now faces up to 20 years for illegally re-entering the country.
How likely is that? After all, Franco del Cid was only sentenced to 12 and half years in prison, serving eight, after being convicted of nearly two dozen charges stemming from the deadly crash, “including four counts of criminal vehicular homicide, 17 counts of criminal vehicular injury, failure to stop at a stop sign, not having a valid driver’s license and providing a false name and date of birth to police,” according to a report from Marshall Independent.
Obviously, her sentence did not lead to any undue fear – on her part – of the U.S. legal system. Franco del Cid had seen for herself how things work. She had her immigration status downplayed before by U.S. police and employers. Why wouldn’t it be so again?
Tapping Into a Network
At the time of the crash, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) reported that a woman named Alianiss Morales had been ticketed for driving without a license in 2006 after hurtling her vehicle into a homeowner’s yard in Montevideo, 30 minutes north of Cottonwood. Alianiss Morales is the name on the false ID that Franco del Cid had been using. “I have seen [Franco del Cid’s] photograph, and I do recognize her as the one I stopped in May of ’06,” Sgt. Rohn Halverson, the police officer who ticketed Morales, has stated.
Franco del Cid had apparently purchased the stolen identity of a Puerto Rican woman living in Connecticut. Puerto Rican ID cards are highly valued among Latino illegal aliens. “Many times illegal aliens will assume the identity of a Puerto Rican U.S. citizen because of the commonality in the language and will use that identity,” ICE official Tim Counts told MPR. “It’s difficult to say exactly how it happens, how those identities are channeled here, but we do find that’s a fairly common occurrence,” he said.
Stolen Puerto Rican IDs are not unusual in the southwestern Minnesota rural area in which Cottonwood is located. Just over an hour south, in Worthington, a man was indicted in 2006 – two years before the fatal bus crash – on charges of selling Puerto Rican birth certificates and Social Security cards to illegals, according to MPR.
Worthington is home to JBS Swift & Co., a large industrial meatpacker – although the company has no connection to Franco del Cid. That being said, this illegal alien almost certainly availed herself of the same network used by undocumented laborers in the agriculture and food processing industry to obtain the false identification documents. Those documents helped her remain in Cottonwood right up to the moment she ran that stop sign and killed four kids.
On Her Way to Work
Franco del Cid was heading to her job at Norcraft Cabinetry when she hit the bus. According to its website, Norcraft “started in Marshall, a small western Minnesota town” in 1966 and has steadily grown over the decades to “become the United State’s [sic] fifth largest cabinetry producer.”
Norcraft either did not bother to check on Franco del Cid’s legal status or was easily fooled by her false identification. Either way, a sturdy mandatory verification system would have been able to quickly determine that Franco del Cid did not look anything like the woman whose identity she had apparently assumed.
“Alianiss is not a common name,” MPR reported in 2008. “Two Spanish linguistics professors contacted for this story say they’ve never heard of it. They say it could be a name created by parents.”
MPR reported that immigration officials visited the grandmother of the real Alianiss Morales. “He showed me an ID with the picture of a dark woman with dark eyes,” the grandmother related, “and he asked me if that was Alianiss, and I said, ‘No, that’s not Alianiss. Alianiss is blonde with green eyes.'”
If a police officer – who happened upon the scene of a Guatemalan native who had driven a car onto a residential lawn while not possessing a driver’s license – had fully checked on her identification, or if an employer had discovered her false identity and not hired her, four young Americans would very likely be alive today. These are the kind of failings that made Olga Marina Franco del Cid feel perfectly comfortable about returning to Minnesota.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.