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Widow says Republican candidate’s immigration ad politicizes her husband’s death

Mike Braun, and Indiana businessman, released this ad for his U.S. Senate campaign. (Video: Mike Braun/YouTube)

The political ad opens with formidable music, a dark screen and a mug shot.

“Here illegally, Manuel Orrego-Savala was deported twice and had multiple convictions and arrests,” says Mike Braun, a Republican from Indiana running for the U.S. Senate.

Orrego-Savala is the man accused of killing Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson and his Uber driver Jeffrey Monroe in a drunken-driving incident Feb. 4 on an Indianapolis interstate. Braun’s political ad highlights the deaths to call for stronger immigration policies.

“It was a senseless tragedy, and it never should have happened,” Braun says in the ad. “Politicians in Washington have ignored this issue for far too long. We must build the wall, ban sanctuary cities and put an end to chain migration. There are lives are stake.”

The sentiment echoed that of President Trump, who earlier this month renewed his call for a crackdown on illegal immigration in a tweet about the deaths.

Braun’s ad was a shock to the Uber driver’s widow, Deb Monroe. She told The Washington Post in a phone interview on Thursday that Braun did not seek permission to use her husband’s photo or politicize his death.

“I would never let anybody use my husband’s name that way,” she said. Regarding the accused man, she added: “I don’t think his immigration status had anything to do with my husband’s death.”

And turning this into an immigration debate, she said, is “not going to bring my husband back.”

She has called Braun’s campaign to remove the ad from the air, but her calls have not been returned. A spokesman for Braun’s campaign, Josh Kelley, issued a statement to the Indianapolis Star.

“Like President Trump, Mike Braun believes that Washington needs to stop illegal immigration, build the wall, and keep criminal illegals like the one that killed Jeffrey Monroe and Edwin Jackson out of Indiana,” the statement said. “Mike and his family are praying for the families of the victims.”

Jackson, 26, and Jeffrey Monroe, 54, were struck and killed on Feb. 4 while standing outside the Uber vehicle along Interstate 70. Jackson had become ill, and Monroe pulled off the highway to help him. Police said Orrego-Savala was driving with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit when he crashed his Ford F-150 truck into the two men.

The Marion County prosecutor’s office charged Orrego-Savala with two counts of failure to remain at the scene of an accident and two counts tied to drunken driving causing death, all felonies. He also faces federal illegal reentry charges. Orrego-Savala, 37, is a citizen of Guatemala and has been deported twice, according to Indiana state police.

He was previously convicted of driving under the influence in 2005 and of driving without ever receiving a license in 2017, according to the Indianapolis Star. On Feb. 13, he was charged with forgery, perjury, identity deception and false informing related to his 2017 arrest.

Before the drunken driving charges were announced, Trump tweeted about the incident:

“So disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed @Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!”

In response, Marion County prosecutor Terry Curry condemned the president for turning the tragedy into a political issue.

“We are disheartened that ghoulish and inappropriate public commentary has politicized this tragedy,” Curry, a Democrat, told the Indianapolis Star. “Much of such commentary, including tweets by the president, fails to acknowledge that both Edwin Jackson and Jeffrey Monroe lost their lives on Sunday. We will simply seek justice on behalf of the families of those two victims.”

Before the crash, Deb Monroe said she did not have “much of an opinion” about immigration policy, perhaps “because it’s an issue that does not affect my everyday life.” Her husband was also known to avoid discussing politics, particularly because of his job.

But they were both against Trump’s push to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, thinking the money would be better used elsewhere.

“I feel like we are a land of opportunity,” Monroe said. “We are all immigrants, we all came from somewhere.” Moreover, she said, “a wall isn’t going to get people like this guy out.”

While “drunken driving is a real issue,” she said she is still grieving her late husband, whom she described as “a loving, kind, compassionate person.”

“I just want my husband to be remembered for the amazing man that he was, not for someone to win votes with,” Monroe said. “I want him to be treated with respect.”

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