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Family of Americans killed in border smuggling crash sit down with Mayorkas: ‘It got very personal’


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The Washington Examiner

Anna Giaritelli, Homeland Security Reporter
April 21, 2023

EXCLUSIVE — A tight-knit Texas family reeling from the loss of two beloved relatives as a result of the worsening border crisis did not hold back in a rare one-on-one meeting this week with Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Texas resident Elisa Tambunga, 27, had one objective when she and her three remaining family members went into a private meeting with Mayorkas in Washington on Wednesday: to create an indelible image in his mind of the faces of innocent people whose lives were stolen as a reckless human smuggler tore through the small town of Ozona, a solid 130 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.


“My goal going in there was to speak to him as a citizen, as a parent, parent to parent. It wasn't to go in there politicizing our tragedy because that's not our goal. But it was to go in there to give him a face to the border crisis. ... It got very personal,” Tambunga said in an interview with the Washington Examiner on Thursday.


Emilia Tambunga, 7, and her grandmother Maria Tambunga, 71, were killed upon impact on March 13 when a 22-year-old Louisiana man smuggling 11 illegal immigrants in a pickup truck crashed into the Tambungas' truck. The crash was so horrific that their bodies were never taken to the hospital but straight to a local funeral home.


On Wednesday, the family attended a House Homeland Security Committee hearing where Mayorkas testified. During his questioning, Rep. August Pfluger (R-TX), who represents the neighboring district, told Mayorkas about the deaths of the two and informed him that their family was in the room and would welcome an apology.

Mayorkas stood and turned around to face the family and expressed his condolences before agreeing to Pfluger’s follow-up request that he meet the family afterward.



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