An undocumented immigrant, who killed a 22-year-old University of Mary Hardin-Baylor student almost a decade ago, will be on a pathway to deportation when he is released on parole from a Texas prison in June, state Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple, announced Friday afternoon.
Amber Rice was killed in a car accident in 2007 when Juan Molina, the undocumented immigrant, rear-ended the back of the truck Rice and her boyfriend, Michael Dodson, were driving. Molina then fled the scene.
He was convicted for second-degree intoxicated manslaughter with a vehicle and failing to stop and render aid in 2008. Rice’s family signed a plea agreement with Molina, now 43, to serve 10 years in a Texas prison then be deported.
Augusta Rice, Amber’s mother, said for some time state officials were not sure that Molina would be deported as outlined in his plea agreement.
“When we were told that they were not confident he would be deported that he would just be released back into the public it kind of was like a stab in my heart,” Augusta said. “It wouldn’t be the full justice for Amber’s death. I want her death to stand for something.”
Molina is currently serving his sentence at the Segovia Unit in Edinburg. He is set to be released on June 1, Shine said.
“At that time, we understand, that he will be taken into custody by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials under an immigration detainer,” the Bell County lawmaker said, surrounded by Amber Rice’s family. “This is the first step in closure for the Rice family …”
After not receiving responses from ICE and Gov. Greg Abbott — whom they wrote letters to — Augusta and Misty Rice, Amber’s sister, turned to Shine.
“I finally found someone who would listen to us and hear our story and do something about it,” Augusta said. “I have a lot of faith in him. I can’t thank him enough for what he has done.”
When an undocumented immigrant is convicted of killing an American citizen, he should not be released back into the general population, Shine said.
“Illegal immigrants convicted of heinous crimes should always be sent to ICE and tagged for deportation,” he said. “Our hope is that President (Donald) Trump makes it so an illegal immigrant convicted of a heinous crime has no chance to be allowed to return to a sanctuary of life in the United States.”
When Shine informed the Rice family that Molina will be deported, Augusta had mixed feelings.
“I feel joy,” Augusta said as tears began to well up from eyes. “(But) also sadness because I’ll never have my daughter back. He took something very precious from my family.”
Amber was a social work senior at UMHB. She planned to attend graduate school and eventually work with terminally ill children, Augusta said. Amber wanted to get married and have children.
It’s likely that Amber would have married Dodson, who she had been dating for about three years, Augusta said.
“We’re her voice and we’ll continue to be her voice,” Augusta said.
While she still deals with the pain from Amber’s death, Augusta said she can remember her daughter with joy now.
“I don’t cry every time I see her picture or remember something about her,” Augusta said. “One day I will be reunited with her again. I will see her again.”