Lanterns: A Profile in Courage: An Interview with Angel Mom, Sabine Durden


A Profile in Courage: An Interview with Angel Mom, Sabine Durden

"I will never be able to hold a grandbaby or become a Mother-in-law. I will never be able to see what amazing things my son would have achieved. I will never be able to hug, hold, and kiss my child. Never hear his roaring laughter and be part of his funny pranks. Never will I get to feel the most amazing hugs and be able to look forward to another exciting day with my son Dominic. All because of someone who thought they were above the law and kept getting away with breaking our laws every day. It has to stop. It needs to be fixed so that no other American is sacrificed for the benefit of someone that isn't supposed to be here in the first place."

-Sabine Durden

Who is Sabine Durden?

Sabine Durden is an exceptional woman. She belongs to a club of which she never wanted to be a member; "Angel Moms."  Angel Moms are mothers who have suffered the untimely death of their children and are there to offer each other support. On July 12, 2012, at 5:45 am, Sabine's son, Dominic, was murdered by a criminal illegal immigrant who was being sheltered by the Sanctuary City of Riverside, California. To make sure that no other parent would feel her blinding pain, Sabine who describes herself as "non-political," was driven to become politically active. She was thrust into the national spotlight speaking at the Republican National Convention in 2016.

A New Life in America

In 1978, Ms. Durden met her then-husband in her native Germany where he was stationed as a service member in the United States Army. A few years later, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy they named Dominic.  "When Dominic was born, I knew he was something special.  Always cheerful and laughing,  and always very interested in everything around him.  In Kindergarten, he made sure to sit with the kids that no one wanted to sit with.  He made sure outsiders were included and his warm personality created many friends.  That trait carried on into his adult life. He never met a stranger."

In 1990, they received orders from the US military to move to Fort Irwin, California. As an immigrant, Sabine had to undergo an extensive vetting process including background checks, medical tests, and she had to sign papers and agree not to collect welfare or draw any Social Security funds. Sabine stated that she didn't mind any of these procedures because it was to ensure the safety of the United States. She was approved and received her "resident alien" card and was excited to begin a new life in America with her family.

Best Friends

Not only was Dominic a very giving person, as evidenced by his "Volunteer of the Year" award from the city of Moreno; he was a highly intelligent and precocious young man who enjoyed "learning new things." Dominic was recognized on multiple occasions for his work in the community, including award certificates from President Bill Clinton and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.  

He loved aviation and even built a flight simulator from scratch.  Eventually, he would go on to receive his pilot's license and become a part-owner of a Cessna.  Public service in law enforcement and the fire department also attracted the highly motivated young man. Dominic would go on ridealongs with the police department and volunteer with the fire department.  He became a 911 Dispatcher with ambitions of becoming a motorcycle cop or become a helicopter pilot for the Moreno Valley Police Department.

Despite his rewarding and busy life, Dominic always made time for his mother who became his best friend. "Dominic and I had a bond and friendship from the day he was born.  We were best friends."  They loved spending time exploring the landscape on motorcycle rides together.  Dominick was also known as a "prankster" and Sabine was on the receiving end of a lot of his jokes.  "He was very social, enjoyed all his friends and travel.  But he always had time for mom."


The Darkest Day

Sabine was in Atlanta for a family reunion on the darkest day of her life.  Dominic was on his way to begin his new job at the 911 Riverside Sheriff's Department, Guatemala when a speeding car driven recklessly by Juan Tzun Lopez, an illegal from Guatemala, struck and killed him. Lopez had no driver's license, registration, or insurance, and turned left into oncoming traffic right into Dominic's path.  He was hit with such force that it killed him instantly and threw his body into a wall on the sidewalk.  

Lopez, whose Blood Alcohol Concentration was just below the legal limit, attempted to flee the scene of the accident.  Luckily, two marines on their way to work stayed with Dominic and detained Lopez until police arrived. Lopez had two prior drunk driving convictions, and one felony conviction for grand theft auto.  He was arrested for vehicular manslaughter without negligence.  Dominic Durden's life was cut short at just 30 years-old.

The District Attorney cut a deal with Lopez who received a sentence of 9 months in jail with five years of probation.  He was even allowed to post $1000 bond and walk around a free man awaiting sentencing by the judge.  Meanwhile, Sabine and her family were sentenced to a lifetime of grief.

After serving 35 days in jail, Lopez was taken to an immigration detention center in Adelanto, California.  "For 1.5 years my fiancé drove there every week to make sure they knew we were not going away and wanted to make sure the killer would be deported. We also wrote letters to the Immigration Judge. The killer who needed a special translator throughout the whole ordeal (all at the taxpayer's expense )all of a sudden, spoke perfect English and admitted to drinking heavily that morning he killed Dominic. He applied for amnesty and was denied. He was deported 1.5 years after he killed my boy.  He has family in Riverside and is probably back in this country. He never apologized or showed any remorse.  He told the judge: God gives life and takes life, I was only on my way to work."

Sanctuary City Showdown

Sanctuary Cities have garnered much attention in the media.  A “Sanctuary City” is a city that has adopted a policy of sheltering undocumented immigrants. These municipalities forbid the police or other city employees to inquire about a person’s immigration status. There are thirty-two cities throughout the United States that have adopted such policies and are self-designated “sanctuaries.”  

Because Lopez was sheltered by Riverside which self-designates as a "sanctuary." In 2009, he received a break and was only charged with felony grand theft auto while an armed robbery charge was dropped. He spent a few weeks in jail and was deported back to his native country. 

Lopez illegally returned to Riverside later that year and was caught drunk driving without a license, registration, or insurance, and received probation. A few months later he was caught driving drunk again while on probation, (again no license, registration, or insurance), and yet again, received probation.  

Three weeks later, he killed Dominic.  

If not for the "sanctuary" status of Riverside, Dominic would very likely be here today, living his vibrant life and working towards his dreams.

President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on January 25, 2017, promising to cut off Federal funding to any city that practices sanctuary policies.  "I am ecstatic and hopeful about President Trump signing the EO to shut these cities down," states Sabine.  She wrote to President Obama asking to talk or meet with him about immigration and the lack of enforcement of existing immigration law.  She never received a response.  

When President Trump was still a candidate, he took the time to meet with Sabine and other families who suffered the same fate at the hands of illegal immigrants.  "After Dominic's death, I realized and learned that the issue with illegal immigration was far greater than I ever imagined.  When I met with Mr. Trump for the first time, he inspired me to continue the fight, not only for my son, but for all those victims who no longer had a voice.  Mr.  Trump showed so much compassion and looked me in my eyes and promised that we will never be forgotten."

The leaders of “sanctuary cities” across the country vowed to stand firm on their policies to protect illegal immigrants.  Sabine would like to say to these leaders, "My son's killer was protected by a sanctuary city and got away with so much crime.  If our laws had been enforced, my son would still enjoy his life. The love of my life is dead, my family destroyed, and the law didn't protect my child or myself. [The Sanctuary City policies] worked in favor of the killer. The illegal had more rights and breaks from the law than my son, and I ever had."  

Political Activist

Sabine and the other "Angel Moms" and "Angel Dads" she has met on her sad journey, have vowed to fight to protect all Americans.  She has testified and spoken before Congressional Judiciary Committees in Washington, DC and has appeared numerous times with Donald Trump in his attempts to rally the cause for reforming our immigration system. She also appeared on many news programs with notable figures such as Sean Hannity, Greta Van Susteren, Poppy Harlow, and Laura Ingram. Sharing Dominic's story and the impact his passing has had on her family and his community has renewed her with a clear sense of purpose.  

"I knew I could not just sit on the sidelines. I had to get involved every way I could so that no other mom or dad would have to feel this excruciating pain.  I know my son is smiling and very proud of his mom who was once terrified of public speaking."

Dominic's Legacy

Dominic was honored posthumously with the Mayoral Proclamation recognizing his service to the city of Moreno Valley.  The Riverside Sheriff's Department created the Dominic Durden Top 911 Dispatcher Award that is handed out at every graduation to the best new Dispatcher.  Sabine Durden has maintained a website to honor her son and to keep the public abreast of her activist activities.

"This is America and Americans need to be first again.  We have homeless veterans and so many Americans in need that need to be helped before we help anyone else.  We finally have a President that places us first.  This is not about racism or hate; illegal is not a race.  I hear many talk about immigration enforcement separating families. Many of us who have lost children at the hands of illegals haven't just had our families separated; our families have been destroyed."





Written by Traci Belmonte

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