Wendy Hartling got a frantic message through Facebook last year informing her that her daughter was inside a closet in her apartment–and that Hartling needed to call 911.
She did so, and though paramedics arrived, it wasn’t in time to save her daughter’s life. Just like that, 25-year-old Casey Chadwick was gone.
It took police in Norwich, Connecticut, only a matter of hours to arrest the killer–a Haitian native named Jean Jacques, who stabbed Chadwick to death during a dispute over drugs. While Hartling was trying to cope with the shock of losing a child, she quickly got another jolt–Jacques was an illegal immigrant under deportation orders who never went home.
The reason Jacques was in the county has everything to do with U.S. immigration policy and the failure of some countries to cooperate with efforts to deport criminals who entered the United States illegally. Jacques left Haiti by boat in 1992, arriving first in Cuba before making it to the American mainland.
Once in the United States, Jacques allegedly killed a man and injured the victim’s girlfriend. A jury acquitted him of murder but convicted him of attempted murder, and he spent 17 years in prison. When it came time to release him, state authorities handed him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to be deported.
That’s when they hit a snag. Haiti objected, claiming Jacques’ citizenship could not be proven. Hartling recalls the explanation with bitterness, noting that the defendant’s mother lived in Haiti.
As of June 20, there were 953,507 illegal immigrants who had been ordered deported but were still in the United States, according to ICE. All but 12,042 are not in custody. Those who remain free include 176,126 people who have been convicted of other criminal offenses.
Some of those immigrants with deportation orders are in the same category as Jacques–ordered to return to a country that won’t take them. ICE released 2,166 illegal immigrants from custody in fiscal year 2015 because their home countries refused to take them. ICE picked up Jacques three different times but cut him loose each time after U.S. authorities failed to persuade Haiti to take him back. Under a Supreme Court ruling in 2001, immigration authorities cannot hold an illegal immigrant for more than 30 days.