NAPA, Calif. - A woman who was the victim of a crime five years ago is relieved a 39-year-old ex-con was detained in Napa by ICE agents last week, although the man's wife said his criminal past is years old and he had been working hard to turn his life around.
"I'm glad they finally got him in custody and I hope he serves some time for what he did," Jessica McIntire told Fox News. McIntire was speaking about Armando Nunez-Salgado, a convicted gang member who crashed into her in 2013, leaving her injured and her car totaled.
Nunez-Salgado was one of the 232 people arrested during ICE’s “Keep Safe” operation that began on Feb. 25 in Northern California. While some immigrant rights advocates have described some of the ICE arrests as being indiscriminate and troubling, agents did indeed have Nunez-Salgado as a specific target when they went to his home in Napa on Feb. 25, armed with an arrest warrant.
His wife, Elena Ponce, who was born in the United States and is a sales representative, told KTVU that Centro Legal de la Raza lawyers helped stopped her husband from being immediately deported. As of Monday, he was sitting in a federal detention center in Elk Grove, Calif. As for the hit-and-run, Ponce said she did not know McIntire, and added that her husband was running from police at the time because he was undocumented. "He made a major, stupid mistake," Ponce said.
Nunez-Salgado is a documented gang member who was convicted of felony force and assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, and hit and run, ICE records state. An immigration judge ordered that Nunez-Salgado be removed from the U.S. in May 2000 and, since then, he has been removed back to Mexico several times, most recently in 2010, the agency said. His wife said he has been deported four times.
Napa County court records reveal that a “Armando Nunes-Salgado,” age 38, was sentenced to seven years and four months in state prison in 2015 after pleading no contest to felony evading a peace officer, hit and run with injury or death, and failure to appear on felony charges, the Napa Valley Register reported.
The sentence was suspended and, instead, Nunes-Salgado was granted five years of probation with a requirement that he complete a long-term residential treatment program, according to court documents.
Ponce said that spending time at the court-mandated Jericho Project Program Recovery for Substance Abuse program in Brisbane, Calif. really helped turned her husband's life around. She said aside from the hit-and-run in 2013, her husband had dropped out of all gang life in the early 2000s.
Ponce met Nunez-Salgado at age 16 in 1996 and said she is quite aware that he made a "lot of dumb mistakes in his life." The couple have two children, ages 14 and 18.
She also understands the heated immigration debate and the fact that her husband does not have an innocent past. But as his wife, she said she is going to fight his deportation despite the odds. She said it would be too dangerous for him to move back to Mexico because he is a gang dropout.
"If I didn't know him, I'd probably be like everyone else," Ponce said. "But I'm going to fight his deportation because what kind of future will he have?"