Just as I was about to send what surely would have been my last email to Matt Raver, an unhinged and insulting missive on immigration policy, something made me hesitate.
Why was Raver so impassioned, so sure he was right? Why was Raver so specific in his accusations against a system he felt did too little to stop dangerous immigrants from coming to the United States, and was ineffective in deporting noncitizens who committed heinous crimes?
So I did a little internet homework before I hit “send.”
Raver, 53, of Plainview, is a professional pilot. He grew up in Westchester County with three sisters. And in 1988, Alfredo Prieto, an immigrant from El Salvador, shot one of those sisters, Rachael Raver, 22, and her boyfriend, Warren Fulton, also 22, to death, in Reston, Virginia. Prieto raped Raver as she died.
Rachael Raver had just graduated from George Washington University, where she played soccer. Law school should have been next.
Matt and the family did not know Prieto was the killer until 2005, when his DNA was fed into the system. Prieto was then on death row in California after being convicted of a murder there. Police in the two states say he killed at least nine people and raped at least four. Prieto was put to death in Virginia in 2015. Matt Raver and his sister, Dede, attended the execution.
Prieto, here legally but not a citizen, came to the United States at age 15, following his mother, who came in 1975 seeking asylum and married an American. And years before Prieto killed Raver and Fulton, he was convicted in a nonfatal drive-by shooting in California and sentenced to three years in jail.
I did not send Raver the email I had written on that day five or six years ago. Instead, I sent one saying I was sorry for all he’d been through.
We kept in touch. We sometimes emailed angrily, but managed to never say anything unforgivable. And Sunday night, we sat down together at the Plainview Diner, he with a tidy pastry and coffee, me with an embarrassing deluxe double cheeseburger platter.
Raver is a trim man who spent 22 years in the Marines, split between active duty and the reserves. His two children are in college. His manner was gracious. We were both better behaved in person than in emails, which might be a lesson in itself.
Raver is big supporter of President Donald Trump because he believes the president is right about illegal immigration. Raver wants the wall. He wants the nation to know and control who is here. And he feels that a nonporous border would slow the flow of illegal drugs, which kills our people and enriches gangs. He says he knows the idea of sending home 11 million immigrants here illegally is impossible and immoral, and wants a path to citizenship for hardworking, law-abiding immigrants. But he hates sanctuary cities and the sense that some local law enforcement won’t help enforce federal immigration laws. He believes the gang problem with MS-13 is more serious than people realize (Prieto headed an early offshoot of MS-13 in California). And he believes the burdens created by illegal immigration, like crime and overcrowded schools, fall most heavily on immigrant communities.
Raver thinks Prieto should have been deported before Rachael was killed. He believes the United States should be protected by a border and immigration system that would keep violent criminals like him out for good. He believes that if people don’t like the immigration laws of this nation, they ought to fight to change them, not just ignore them.
And while I don’t agree with everything he believes, or how he prioritizes, he deserves a chance to share his views and story. And you deserve to hear them.
Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.