Illegals’ Crimes Expose Broken Immigration System as Next Border Surge Looms

Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, April 13, 2015

As the Obama administration prepares for a new surge of illegal immigrant children this year, some of those from previous waves are turning up on court dockets across the country, charged with serious crimes such as capital murder and aggravated rape.

The cases are exposing many of the holes in the immigration system and the way the U.S. has tried to grapple with children fleeing economic troubles, domestic abuse or gang violence in Central America–and sometimes bringing those very troubles to the U.S. with them.

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“The eagerness of the administration to open our borders is not without consequence,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who has tracked the issue. “Now we’re seeing some of these same minors in the criminal justice system, and the crimes some are being brought in for are very serious, even heinous. The administration, with their approach, wants to assume everyone that shows up on America’s doorstep has good intentions, but that’s a dangerous assumption, and we’re seeing evidence of the fact.”

The administration admits it was overwhelmed by last summer’s surge, which officials said caught them by surprise, with more than 60,000 so-called “unaccompanied minors”–children traveling without a parent–streaming across the border in fiscal year 2014. {snip}

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That was the situation with Jonny Alberto Enamorado-Vasquez, whose journey from Honduras to a Houston jail, where he awaits trial on capital murder, is one of the more extreme cases.

According to government documents, Mr. Enamorado fled Honduras on Sept. 22, 2012, hoping to connect with his father, who was supposed to be living in New Orleans, presumably without authorization. He took buses across Guatemala and Mexico, ending up in Reynosa, a town directly across the border from McAllen, Texas, where he holed up at a safe house for a couple of days before jumping the border on Oct. 7.

He was immediately caught by agents doing line watch, who said they were unable to track down his father. From that point on, Mr. Enamorado was in and out of authorities’ custody, passed between the Border Patrol, detention officers at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the social workers at the Department of Health and Human Services, and eventually released from detention in late October because of what the government described as “lack of space.”

Little more than two years later he was back in the criminal justice system, with Houston police accusing him of being part of a January homicide that saw three armed men burst into a smoke shop, find and confront owner Michael Phelan, which sparked a gunbattle that killed Phelan.

Mr. Enamorado initially fought extradition from Louisiana but caved and is now in Houston. The lawyer listed as defending him in his murder case didn’t return a message seeking comment.

Part of the difficulty appears to be Mr. Enamorado’s age. He initially was booked as a 17-year-old and processed as a juvenile and placed in an HHS home for illegal immigrant children. But it appears authorities realized he was actually a year older, making him an adult and thus not eligible for the special treatment afforded children.

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Indeed, of the illegal immigrant kids who had deportation court dates between July 2014 and February 2015, less than 40 percent even bothered to show up. The rest were ordered deported in absentia–but they had already absconded.

That was the case with Jalmar Mejia-Lopez, whom Louisiana authorities arrested and charged with aggravated rape last month after receiving an anonymous tip that the now-21-year-old illegal immigrant had impregnated his 12-year-old girlfriend, who was living with him.

Mr. Mejia first drew the attention of authorities in July 2011, when two Border Patrol agents saw him wandering near the Rio Grande in Texas, his tattered and muddy clothes tipping them off that he had probably just jumped the border. His story was much the same as Mr. Enamorado‘s: He’d fled his home in Honduras and traveled by bus and train to reach the U.S. border, where he waded across the Rio Grande at night with the hope of eventually reaching his brother living in Virginia.

He didn’t know his brother’s phone number, his father was dead, and his mother still lived at home in Honduras, so authorities processed him and turned him over to social workers at HHS, who quickly placed him with a social worker at a Catholic church in Philadelphia, who identified herself as a “family friend” and promised to look after him. A year later, he missed his deportation hearing, was ordered kicked out in absentia and disappeared into the shadows along with more than 11 million other illegal immigrants.

He surfaced again when the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office got the tip earlier this year and tracked it down, discovering Mr. Mejia with his 12-year-old victim, who’d lived with Mr. Mejia at his apartment for several months.

“The 12-year-old victim stated that she is approximately four months along in the pregnancy and that she is in love with the defendant,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement of probable cause filed in the case. {snip}

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