July 1, 2015
Steve Ronnebeck believes immigration legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., could have prevented the death of his son.
Grant Ronnebeck, 21, was gunned down in January while working at a QuikTrip store in Mesa. The man charged with killing him, Apolinar Altamirano, 29, was in the country illegally and had been released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement even though he'd been previously convicted of a felony burglary charge.
Salmon's proposed legislation, which he announced Tuesday, would require federal immigration authorities to detain undocumented immigrants accused or convicted of serious crimes and deport them within 90 days.
Salmon has named it "Grant's Law" in honor of the slain clerk.
"We can't think of a better tribute to Grant than having a law named after him," Steve Ronnebeck said.
In 2012, Altamirano pleaded guilty to a felony burglary charge and was sentenced to two years probation. He was then turned over to ICE, but the agency released him on a $10,000 bond while he awaited the outcome of deportation proceedings.
Salmon said his legislation is intended to end a "catch and release" policy under President Barack Obama's administration. Undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes at the local level are turned over to ICE only to be released later on their own recognizance or on bond, he said.
In response to inquiries from Salmon, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and other lawmakers, the Department of Homeland Security disclosed in June that between 2010 and 2014, 121 undocumented immigrants who were released while awaiting deportation after committing crimes were later charged with homicides.
Grant Ronnebeck was the 122nd person killed by an undocumented immigrant released by ICE following a criminal conviction, Ronnebeck said.
"Every single one of these 122 deaths was preventable," he said. "Had ICE not granted Mr. Altamirano bond, my son might be getting off work right now, heading home, maybe going to a friend's house, or maybe going to do something with his brother. We will never know."
Ronnebeck recalled that his son had an "infectious smile. Even when he was a baby his smile could light up a room and melt a heart."
He said his son had worked for the QuikTrip corporation for five years and had worked his way up to assistant manager.
"He had plans for his future, his career, his life. He was just starting out," Ronnebeck said.