Immigrant Song

Blame the illegal alien? It's never that simple . . .

Last month, a Mesa mother of six was killed in a car accident. Within days, she'd been made a martyr by the anti-illegal-immigration movement.

Nanuma Lavulavu died when a 26-year-old Mexican national intentionally hit another car on the road. Guadalupe Perez-Bojorquez, according to the sheriff's report, admitted to being in this country illegally. He also admitted to snorting cocaine, ramming an SUV driven by an undercover sheriff's deputy, and fleeing the scene after the deputy crashed into Lavulavu's car.

In her 46 years, Lavulavu lived a quiet, anonymous existence. In death, she's become the poster child for an angry crowd convinced that immigrants are flooding our borders and wreaking havoc on our American way of life.

Mark Andresen

Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts, the town crier for the anti-illegal set, called Lavulavu one in "the long, sad parade of people who were killed because our government can't or won't do what it takes to get control of the border." Google Lavulavu's name, and you'll get more than 400 hits, most of them linking to Roberts' story or echoing her perspective. You'll even find a Web site memorializing every American killed by an illegal alien.

But Lavulavu's life, and death, were far from the simple anti-immigration homily that Roberts portrayed them to be.

Really, when it comes to the immigration issue, there are no simple answers. We can squawk all we want about amnesty or shutting the border. The real solution is a lot more complicated.

It's the same with our individual stories. As writers, or bloggers, we can make someone the villain and someone else the innocent victim. But any time we bother to dig below the surface, the story gets messier.

That's as true for Nanuma Lavulavu, and the accident that killed her, as anything.

First off, Lavulavu herself was an immigrant — and was married for decades to a man who broke the law to help other immigrants stay here illegally.

Second, while the sheriff's report on the accident clearly indicates that Guadalupe Perez-Bojorquez was a reckless driver, it also raises questions about the deputy whose SUV struck Lavulavu.

After reading the 166-page report, I fully believe that Perez-Bojorquez engaged in violent behavior that triggered a terrible series of events.

But I'm also convinced of this: Nanuma Lavulavu's death could have been prevented if only the sheriff's deputy who hit her was a better driver.

There are a lot of things in the sheriff's report that make no sense, chiefly that, in its telling, a Mexican who's here illegally decides for no reason whatsoever to ram an SUV that pulls up behind him.

It's inexplicable behavior. But there are eyewitnesses who saw the deputy being rear-ended. The witnesses also saw him follow the SUV to continue the attack — leaving no question that Guadalupe Perez-Bojorquez is to blame for what happened, even if no one can explain why he'd behave so strangely. (The deputy claims Perez-Bojorquez was throwing empty beer bottles out the window, but no other witnesses have provided confirmation on that point.)

And so it's clearly not the fault of Maricopa County Sheriff's Deputy Robin Kinnett that his Ford Expedition was rear-ended. What's troubling is that, after the collision, Kinnett didn't pull over. He didn't even call for backup.

Instead, by his own telling, Kinnett did a U-turn in a parking lot, then pulled back into a busy intersection.

According to one witness, Kinnett was driving so quickly that he cut off another driver to get into the left-turn lane.

At that point, Perez-Bojorquez rammed Kinnett's Expedition again. This time, the Expedition plowed right into another car — the one driven by Nanuma Lavulavu.

Finally, Kinnett called 911. But instead of immediately begging for an ambulance for Lavulavu, Kinnett's focus was entirely on himself.

"I got a vehicle that just ran me off the road," Kinnett announced.

This self-absorption would be understandable in most cases; Kinnett had just gone through a harrowing ordeal. But he'd been a cop for more than 15 years — and still, the dispatcher had to tell Kinnett, twice, to stop screaming into the phone. Even after that, Kinnett took the time to explain his position with the sheriff's office before he got around to mentioning that another driver needed an ambulance.

It's the perfect metaphor for Nanuma Lavulavu's tragic end: Everybody has been too busy shouting about peripheral issues to look at what really happened on the night of June 19.

And what happened is cause for concern. There's no reason that Deputy Kinnett should still be on the road, especially in a sheriff's department Expedition.

He certainly could have handled this one differently.

He could have pulled off the road after Perez-Bojorquez hit him the first time — and stayed there long enough to call for backup, or even 911.

After he'd been rear-ended, Kinnett had no business getting back onto the road, much less making his way into far left lane. That's simply begging for a collision.

He should have known better — because, for one thing, this isn't the first time that Kinnett's driving has resulted in injury.

Four years ago, Kinnett struck two motorcyclists, hitting them hard enough to throw them from their bikes, according to a civil suit filed by the bikers. Although the bikers' lawyer, Charles Franklin, believes that Kinnett should have been cited, he wasn't.

Once again, in the accident that killed Nanuma Lavulavu, Deputy Kinnett doesn't appear to have been cited, much less reprimanded by his employer.

As New Times readers may recall, Sheriff Joe Arpaio refuses to talk to us. His spokesman declined to take any questions. But the sheriff has told other reporters that he's closed the Lavulavu case without further investigation into Kinnett's actions. Nothing in the files I saw contradicted that statement.

Perez-Bojorquez has been charged with second-degree murder. Case closed.

Who's surprised by that? It's easier for Sheriff Joe to direct all the blame to a coked-up Mexican guy than to continue an inquiry that could reflect badly on his own man.

Nanuma Lavulavu is dead, and figuring out exactly what happened that night in west Phoenix won't bring her back.

But making Lavulavu a martyr for the anti-immigration cause won't do that, either. If anything, it's an insult to Lavulavu and the complicated life she lived.

In some of the anti-immigration blogs that have adopted Lavulavu as their heroine, writers insist that despite her foreign-sounding name, Lavulavu wasn't an immigrant. They claim that she's Hawaiian.

That may fit a simplistic worldview — the Mexican is the killer, the American is the innocent victim — but it doesn't fit the facts.

Nanuma Lavulavu immigrated to this country from Tonga when she was 31 years old. At the time, she and her husband, Samuela, were well on their way to having six children, making them one of those big families that anti-immigration types like to whine about. (You know: "I don't hate illegals, I just don't understand why they have to have so many damn kids when we have to pay for their schools and their medical care.")

After moving to Oakland, and then Utah, the Lavulavus' story was no get-rich-quick tale of white-collar work and white picket fences. In 1997, records show, Lavulavu's husband was arrested. He was charged with forging papers, part of a scheme to obtain fake Utah birth certificates for his fellow immigrants.

Samuela Lavulavu eventually pleaded guilty to three felonies. After he violated his parole, he did a few months in jail. (His brother, a member of the Tongan parliament, also pleaded guilty to charges related to the scheme.)

If these guys were Mexicans, you can imagine what Laurie Roberts would be saying.

Deport them now!

But here's the thing. Nanuma Lavulavu's life is no more an argument that we should kick out foreigners than her death was. For all the difficulties that the Lavulavus must have had in this country, theirs really is the classic immigrant story.

And that's because of their kids.

Nanuma Lavulavu and her husband may not have had an easy time of it here. But according, a Web site put up by friends of the family, their children have found success. One works for U.S. Airways. One is a manager at a concrete company. Another served a tour of duty as a United States Marine in Iraq.

These days, we demand instant success from our immigrants. Why can't they speak English? Why should we pay their emergency room bills?

We want people moving here to come with precisely the right papers, to fit in immediately, to thrive in the bourgeois class.

But that's not the immigrant story. It never has been.

It's terribly difficult to move to a country with a different language, and different customs, from your own. The reason many immigrants keep going, and keep working, is that they want things to be better for their children.

That's what the Lavulavus did. And despite the horrible accident that took their mother's life, I can only hope that the six Lavulavu children, and their children, continue to believe in this country and continue to thrive here.


Trouble continues to plague Arizona's largest daily newspaper.

As I wrote last month, the Arizona Republic has been plagued with high-profile departures ("It's a Wrap," June 7). Since then, even more reporters have said their goodbyes, including such big names as Jodie Snyder, who covered health care for years, and Stephanie Paterik, who covered tourism. They've gone to Banner Health and Phoenix Magazine, respectively. Hal Mattern, a 28-year veteran who used to write the paper's "Biz Buzz," is also leaving for a PR job.

But it's a circulation move that has northern Arizona readers in a tizzy. Last week, the Republic announced that it was halting distribution to Page and Tuba City. A Republic executive told the Arizona Daily Sun that the area was just too far away to provide "consistent, high-quality service."

Dick Hile has lived in Page nearly 30 years and subscribed to the Republic for all of them. But now, he'll start his days without a copy of the paper on his doorstep.

"It's really a shame," he says. "The rest of Arizona is thriving, growing, and doing well — and they're just ignoring it."

With the change, the Republic loses only 300-something subscribers. But Hile thinks the paper may grow to regret its rejection.

"They're doing us a disservice," he says, "but they're also shooting themselves in the foot."


If times are hard at the Republic, they're downright Dickensian over at the East Valley Tribune.

My sources tell me that editors at the paper have been given copies of Our Iceberg Is Melting, a tome written by a Harvard Business School guy who wants to help people adapt to change. Like, er, not having jobs anymore?

Enough people have left the Tribune that the paper, despite some major financial problems, may yet avoid layoffs. But sources say that that management's next move could be ugly: Mimicking one of the Republic's least-popular initiatives, the shrunken Monday edition, the Tribune plans to combine its business and feature sections. (Not, alas, just on Mondays.) Even worse, the already skinny paper is planning to cut four pages out of its daily news hole. That means shorter stories will be a mandate.

But not to fear! My sources say that the Trib plans to post longer stories online. Readers left wanting more can just log on to the paper's Web site.

Never mind that newspaper Web sites have increasingly proved themselves a mediocre source of revenue, at best. And never mind that the Trib's Web site, in particular, is an unnavigable mess.

It's funny. Newspaper executives like to talk about how reporters need to move with the times, that we're going to all have to learn to survive in an advertising market where dailies get an increasingly small piece of the pie.

But instead of making their newspapers more readable, say, or breaking bigger stories, the executives in this business seem intent on building a big fat bonfire right in the middle of the iceberg. Is anyone surprised that it's melting?

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I guess we should go back in time and remember this country or the lands the US now ocupy belonged to the natives americans and it was the uninvited british who came "ilegally" to kill and take what didn't belong to them.

After that US colonists took almost half of Mexico.

History continues and now the US has been invading as many countries as they wish for this or that. Now "ilegal aliens" come here because their countries are basically screwed, they are good to work ilegally if somebody can exploit them, but they can no remain here because they're all bad bad people stealing our jobs and endangearing our livelihood.

So, illegals will continue to come to these countries, no matter what. It's just a consequence of the system by itself. As long as we continue impoverishing other countries, their needed people will continue risking their lives for a "better" future.

Erika Page
Erika Page

Laurie, at the Arizona Republic, is only writing about illegal alliens. It is all she can provide everyday. Her world is around illegal aliens and the people reading her articles are just writing racism comments about the hispanic community. How can somebody be free to create so much hate to an specific group of people? Why the AR is letting her to spread her personal opinion? Should be something neutral with proof of what she is saying..she is just increasing racism on the heat of immigration.


I do agree that illegal immigration is a crime. However, illegal immigration does not necessarily correlates to other crimes.

First, the point made by the columnist was missed, which is that being an illegal immigrant did not have anything to do with this tragic event. Being an illegal immigrant not necessarily leads to committing other crimes as numerous statistics have shown. Not because someone jaywalks he is also murderer. So, illegal immigration should not have been part of this discussion of a coke-snorting idiot that lead to the killing of an innocent person.

Second, while there are illegal immigrants doing drug trafficking the majority are US citizens, so the one and the other should not be correlated. Even if there were no illegal immigration drug trafficking would still exist; to prove this one needs go back in history to the Prohibition Era.

Finally, illegal immigration should be its on topic, not get mixed in the mud with everything else.


This story was insightful and brought about some good points on immigration. This is an issue that has good and bad points. I for one, being a Native American, born and raised here,ask the question why do we (U.S.) have to make concessions to those who come here illegally? Why does our government have to issue 2 forms of communication in anything that is printed or televised? The Federal government all but killed our Native languages but they want to preserve theirs and even promote it? I say if you come to our country - adapt or you lose.

Manuel Vieira Gomes
Manuel Vieira Gomes

Thanks Jane!

Ah, good doctor...where's the love?

No such thing as Hispanic? What about Latino? Tell me, what name is NOW acceptable to call someone of South American descent? So, if you don't like the term (or its origin), then I can't use it? I suggest that you read the United States Constitution - particularly the FIRST AMENDMENT. Y'know, Nixon wasn't ALL that bad...

I am of South American descent AND I AM HISPANIC!!! Get over it.

Thanks for my Spanish lesson. I learned Spanish informally from my MEXICAN FRIENDS and that is EXACTLY how we speak to each other. I am definitely not an expert in the language but know enough that colloquialisms keep Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans from easily understanding each other far worse than the Yanks and the Brits.

Oh, and I don't have time or the patience to correct your English spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Looks to me like I speak Spanish FAR better than you speak English. Con permiso...un F.

As for education; I'm actually trying to get into a Ph.D program but it's in Buddhist History.

Hmm...your grammar seems to have greatly improved. You didn't happen to get any help with your homework did you?

What's with the dyslexia thing?

As far as my Curriculum Vitae; serving my country was the finest education I could ever have hoped for.

Oh yeah, that's right...You're one of THEM, not one of us.

If you were one of us (Americans), you'd understand. If you'd like, you can join us but you must pledge allegiance to our country and its laws. If you can do that, I will gladly stop our little back-and-forth and say, "welcome to the United States".


Manuel spot on!! Great post!!! My above comment meant the deluded reporter and this stupid article.


I can't believe you bleeding hearts give praise to the bad people out there. You people see the bad people good, and the good people bad! You suck your arse backwards!!! You have a mental problem. See a therapist.

Napoleon Callirgos
Napoleon Callirgos

ManuelI am sorry to hear from you that you have partial dyslexia (having trouble reading and understanding a language??? ... here you have a site about it ....BINGO!!!! .br means Brazil .. so portuguese ...enjoy!And your impairment is just partial because you replied twice to my first the way..... are you able to read this? I have to keep going anyway, you blew it up... you couldn't save the ball game. It's my turn.First of all, you are not hispanic,there is no Hispanic community abroad. Hispanic is a word fabricated by the Nixon Administration back in the early 70s to potentially create a large voting block to a new political super group.......are you following me???? hello????? still there???? ok.Abroad are only Mexicans,Cubans,Costa Ricans,Puerto Ricans,Colombians,Argentinians and so forth. We are all from different cultures and none of us belongs to the Hispanic culture. It doesn't exist. As they say, "Only in America!"or better than that..."Only in USA"...knowing the fact that America is a continent not a country.Second.... Your Spanish,at least for what you wrote was a nice attempt, I give you a ....let see.......a C. CON PERMISO is not used in this case, you have to say PERDON. Then you put this down... pero no INTIENDO TU PALABRAS.... it's pero no TE ENTIENDO with the E not the I (you do not need TU PALABRAS and of course you can't mix at your own wish a possessive adjective in singular and the noun that follows in plural....agreement of singular or plural not both.The rest is ......ok with me, however you don't know me you write PRACTICA instead of PRACTIQUE (Manuel...this is subjunctive......sorry I went to far).Third. When I said ".....the best of two worlds....." I was not refering myself to any allegiance but the wisdom I have about personal experience in wrongly so called third world countries and the United States of America. So your "double agent" reference exists only within the four corners of your bedroom.Fourth.....don't's almost over.Go and get more loans and grants to reach a master degree, you just took the first step having your bachelor diploma. By the way, never put in front of your curriculum vitae that you served in the Air Force, nowadays it's something negative for all the mess you contibute to.Finally, There is a great book you can read A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES 1492-PRESENT by Howard Zinn.Please ,Read it, you will be amazed.Y aqu�lgo de espa�para Usted.Como en el juego de ajedrez cada jugador mueve su pieza seg� parezca usted tuvo dos oportunidades, a prop�o la segunda muy mal dirigida y con ella se puso en jaque, ahora con esta misiva le hago......JAQUE.......MATE.Gan�l juego.Manuel el placer fue suyo al conocerme.Adi�PD. No se olvide de tomar su medicina.


yea evil bad white guy.......does this "reporter" even know any white people or are we all just evil ? racism is a two way street isn't it.

Manuel Viera Gomes
Manuel Viera Gomes

One more thing, Doctor:

Look up the words "criminal", "illegal", and "legal" in your Spanish/English dictionary.

The correct definitions of these words are critical to this issue.

They also prove my point.

If you want to be a part of my country, then follow the same laws. If you are an illegal alien, then you are not following our laws.

Identity theft, tax fraud, and welfare fraud are serious crimes. Drug trafficking, rape, and murder define evil.

I hope you practice medicine better than your use of logic.

Manuel Vieira Gomes
Manuel Vieira Gomes

Dear Dr. Callirgos,


No, we are not on the same side.

No, do not confuse this incident with any other.

No, illegal Mexicans do not commit every single crime in the United States but an Illegal Mexican did commit this crime.

No, you do not have the best of both worlds; you must choose between Peru and the United States. You cannot pledge allegiance to two countries. Around here, we call that a "double agent".

And no, you do not have complete fluency in English. Keep working on it. Your comments are extremely difficult to comprehend (on many levels). Con permiso, pero no intiendo tu palabras. Practica mas por favor.

and HELL NO, we do not have to agree that the LEGAL Deputy Sheriff should be punished. In fact, how dare you. You should know better; you must know better.

Oh, and as for more experienced. I proudly served my country in the United States Air Force as a Logistics Expert and was sent to most of the arm-pits of the world (Bosnia, Kuwait, Keflavik, etc.). I hate my government but I dearly love my country and I willingly risked my life (and got shot at several times) for every LEGAL, LAW-ABIDING CITIZEN of the United States of America. I'll take my experiences over yours any day.

And you know what? I didn't even get the GI bill. It was only AFTER my (honorable) discharge at McChord, AFB (second most requested base! The Pacific North West is beautiful) that I decided to go to college and I paid for it with grants and loans. I joined the Air Force because I wanted to SERVE MY COUNTRY. Plus, my (ex) wife's uncle was in the Army and he said the Air Force had the best per diem; HOO RA!

P.s. Many thanks to my fellow LEGAL, American citizens for your comments. It was really nice to read them.

Napoleon Callirgos
Napoleon Callirgos

Ok,guys all we are on the same side. We hate criminals, they should pay for their crimes. But you guys (Manuel to start with) mislead the issue. There is nothing to do with your legal status here or anywhere, deals with the fact that if you are a criminal you will be evil's intrument anyway. Three days ago here in a very quite neighbourhood called Cheshire two men invaded a home and killed a woman and her two daughters. When I read comments about I found people asking themselves whether the suspects were illegal aliens. You know something Manuel and co.?? Two white men assaulted,raped and killed three white INNOCENT women. That is the key word: INNOCENT, not LEGAL or ILLEGAL. Of course these criminals did not come legally to the United States like your father did....THEY WERE BORN HERE!!!!!!So, Manuel..... relax....think that we think pretty much the same, I am a medical doctor legally resident in this country, a peruvian national, so I know the best of two worlds, I think a little bit more experienced than you...yes I do have complete fluency in Spanish, French, Italian and English as you can see and learning German on my own.So maybe to finish this off we have to agree that the ILLEGAL mexican national and the LEGAL deputy officer should be punished. One more thing,please,I came to this place looking for more information about the two helicopters that crashed yesterday in your area....guess what???? ..... ta,ta,ta,tannnnn.....the suspect in the pursuit is a LEGAL CITIZEN, actually was born here, accidentally he is black. Remember, to be a criminal you do not need to be LEGAL or ILLEGAL, white,red,yellow,black or green.Have a safe weekend.

Steven Terrell, Sr.
Steven Terrell, Sr.

Sarah Fenske, your an idiot! How can you attempt to turn this tragedy into something it wasn't!!! Your little illegal buddy was at fault, he was the criminal, he instigated all of it. The SOB should have been the one killed!!! Manuel, thank you for the privilage of reading such a wonderful post.


Manuel, Well put, I think you should have this guys job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!And if he hates our laws so much and wants to confuse a serious situation DEPORT HIM TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Manuel - I've read countless posts, and yours is by far the most eloquent. ThankYou, Sir. Respectfully, Bill

Manuel Vieira Gomes
Manuel Vieira Gomes

Before I begin, I'd like to just say, "how can you be so completely evil?"

Your comments were shocking in their support for a coke-snorting, psychotic, murdering excuse for a life form and their denigration of anyone in a position of authority.

I realize you hippies are busy "fighting the man" but most of the time it's because "the man" was your dad. I "field-tested" this at my EXTREMELY hippie alma mater (The Evergreen State College in Washington; yeah, I'm a Greener Grad). Why are the ULTRA-hippies always from the upper-class? In any case, you have some serious spoiled brat issues if you can't see how evil your comments are.

First off; why blur the destinction between ILLEGAL AND LEGAL immigrant? Do you ever see a distinction between someone who commits a crime and someone who doesn't?

You call Bojorquez a "mexican national" who admits to being in this country illegally and then you say that Lavulavu was ALSO an immigrant as if they were in the same boat together. Was she here illegally? Was she a Tongan national? Was she a coke-snorting, psychopath? These two people are so vastly different from one another that it's impossible to relate the two using logic. In fact, Bojorquez is so vastly different from almost all humans that his humanity is seriously in question. Why try to relate this monster to anyone?

As far as "sticking it to the man", how can you say something like this and sleep at night: "But I'm also convinced of this: Nanuma Lavulavu's death could have been prevented if only the sheriff's deputy who hit her was a better driver."


What about this part in your own story:

"Nanuma Lavulavu died when a 26-year-old Mexican national intentionally hit another car on the road. Guadalupe Perez-Bojorquez, according to the sheriff's report, admitted to being in this country illegally. He also admitted to snorting cocaine, ramming an SUV driven by an undercover sheriff's deputy, and fleeing the scene after the deputy crashed into Lavulavu's car" and also, "Once again, in the accident that killed Nanuma Lavulavu, Deputy Kinnett doesn't appear to have been cited, much less reprimanded by his employer."

Sounds to me like Bojorquez is the clear choice for "guilty", not the deputy.

Do you have any evidence of Deputy Kinnett's negligence? If so, why not include it - it would be the only way to prove your assumptions.

Unless you are an expert on police departmental procedure and/or the tactics used in high-speed chases, you certainly can't call this evidence:

"And what happened is cause for concern. There's no reason that Deputy Kinnett should still be on the road, especially in a sheriff's department Expedition." "He certainly could have handled this one differently." "He could have pulled off the road after Perez-Bojorquez hit him the first time � and stayed there long enough to call for backup, or even 911." "After he'd been rear-ended, Kinnett had no business getting back onto the road, much less making his way into the far left lane. That's simply begging for a collision."

Are you a cop? Do you have any sort of expertise in what to do in a situation like this? Do you tell opera singers and brain-surgeons how to do their jobs too?

Oh, in case you'd like to call me racist; I'm Hispanic. My father is a LEGAL immigrant from Brasil. I speak English, Portuguese, and Spanish. So, let's just say that I'm not racist against my own race, whitey.

My family is very proud of our heritage and our culture but we are even prouder to follow the laws of our country (the United States).

I think multi-culturalism adds so much to this country that I got a Bachelor's Degree in Cultural Studies. More than that, however, I know that we can only have one SOCIETY if we are to continue as the UNITED states. In a society, we ALL agree to follow the law. And please, don't argue about obscure laws or speeding tickets - I'm talking about felonies (tax fraud, identity theft, murder).

So, go get some therapy and deal with your "daddy" issues and stop chipping away at society. Anarchy is only cute when you're a teenager.

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