WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Arizona Senator Jeff Flake are requesting the immigration records of a man who allegedly offered up the three-year-old girl he was babysitting for sex.  The suspect, Francisco Rios-Covarrubias is being held in Mesa, Ariz., on kidnapping, molestation, child abuse and sex trafficking charges.  Federal immigration authorities reportedly issued a detainer against Rios-Covarrubias because of his status as an undocumented immigrant.

 Rios-Covarrubias was arrested after law enforcement investigated a tip from a man who said Rios-Covarrubias offered the child to him for sex.  The child was malnourished, bound with duct tape, and had injuries consistent with sexual abuse, according to a police report.  

The Senate Judiciary Committee has received information that Rios-Covarrubias was illegally in the country, but received deferred deportation through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Grassley and Flake are asking the Department of Homeland Security to provide records related to Rios-Covarrubias’ immigration status, including whether he applied for or was granted DACA and whether he had a criminal record at the time of his application.  They are also seeking details on Rios-Covarrubias’ work authorization and whether it or other immigration benefits have been revoked following his arrest.

In recent months, Grassley has raised similar questions regarding cases in which immigrants received or renewed DACA benefits despite histories or ongoing investigations of criminal activities.  These recipients are now facing charges for subsequent crimes, including child molestation and murder.

Grassley and Flake’s letter to the Department of Homeland Security can be found here.  Full text of the letter follows:

January 22, 2016

The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Secretary Johnson:              

On Monday, January 18, Francisco Rios-Covarrubias was arrested on suspicion of sex trafficking a 3-yr-old girl from his apartment in Mesa, Arizona.   Reports claim that Rios-Covarrubias had apparently duct-taped the girl’s mouth, hands, arms and legs, and confined her to a closet, where she was found covered in human feces.  Police rescued the girl after a man reported that Rios-Covarrubias offered the girl to him for sex.  The girl has signs of sexual abuse, and remains in the hospital where she can neither walk nor talk due to her injuries and trauma.   On Tuesday, January 19, Rios-Covarrubias was charged with four felonies; kidnapping, sexual conduct with a minor, felony child abuse, and sex trafficking. 

According to information received by the Committee, 30-yr-old Rios-Covarrubias was a recipient of deferred action under the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  The Mesa, Arizona, Police Chief told reporters that “[T]his is just one of those cases that shocks the soul.”    We cannot agree more.  For months the Committee has inquired into numerous incidents of DACA recipients enjoying DACA privileges after investigations, arrests, or convictions for violent or predatory crimes.  The DACA recipients referenced in those letters are charged with various crimes including several counts of murder, suspicion of second-degree murder, possession of child pornography, and child molestation.  Yet, criminals are still allowed to retain or apply for DACA privileges, and victims pay the price.  

For a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding this case, please provide responses to the following questions, numbering your answers in accordance with these questions:    

1.    Please confirm that Francisco Rios-Covarrubias applied for, and was granted DACA.  Please provide copies of his executive summary and A-file. 

2.    Did Francisco Rios-Covarrubias have a criminal or arrest record when/if he initially applied for DACA? Did he have a similar record when/if he filed his renewal application?  Please explain. 

a.    If he was arrested, please explain the reason for the arrest(s)?

3.    If relevant, has Francisco Rios-Covarrubias’ employment authorization been terminated? If so, when?  If not, why not?

4.    Did ICE place a detainer on Francisco Rios-Covarrubias after the January 18 arrest?  If so, when? If not, why not?

5.    Was Rios-Covarrubias at any time under investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)? If so, what was he under investigation for? Please explain.

Please respond to this letter no later than February 5, 2016. Should you have any questions, please contact Katherine Nikas at (202)224-5225 or Gary Barnett at (202) 224-4521 of our Committee staff. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.                 

Charles Grassley
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Jeff Flake                                           
Subcommittee on Privacy,                           
echnology and the Law