Immigrants with Suspected Gang Ties Allegedly Skip Court Date; Murder Teen
WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is requesting details regarding the September 4, 2015, murder of 17-year-old Virginia boy allegedly by three individuals who entered the United States in 2013 as unaccompanied minors at the southern border. Two of the three suspects may have gang ties, according to news reports. All three suspects allegedly were ordered to appear in immigration court in August, but skipped the hearing.
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Grassley is seeking more information regarding the suspects’ immigration statuses, their criminal histories and any efforts by immigration officials to remove them.
“Unfortunately, incidents such as this have become too common. It is now customary to hear stories of undocumented or gang-affiliated criminal aliens who are discretionarily released from custody, fail to honor their [Notice to Appear], and receive protection in sanctuary jurisdictions. As a result, American citizens have been subject to preventable violent criminal acts. It is clear that the federal government has failed in its role to prevent great risk to the public safety,” Grassley said in the letter.
Earlier this year, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson stated that known gang members should not receive immigration benefits and “should be considered priority for removal.” However, Johnson also admitted that lapses in background check procedures allowed a known gang member to receive deferred deportation. That gang member is now charged with four counts of 1st degree murder. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has also confirmed that between 2010 and 2014, 121 people who entered the country illegally have been charged with murder after immigration officials failed to deport them following previous criminal convictions.
The full text of Grassley’s letter follows.
October 23, 2015
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Johnson:
On September 4, 2015, 17-year-old Danny Centeno-Miranda from Loudoun County, Virginia, was murdered by his peers while walking near his school bus stop. After a brief investigation, three suspects were arrested by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office with help from the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force (NVGTF). Henry Dominguez-Vasquez and Juan Aguirre-Zelaya, both from El Salvador with possible ties to the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, were charged as accessories to the shooting, and with possession of a firearm while in the country illegally. The alleged shooter, a 17-year-old Mexican national, was charged with murder and using a firearm while committing a felony.
Reports to the committee suggest that the three suspects entered through the Texas border as Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) in 2013, and had been served Notices to Appear (NTA) with a 2015 court date. Allegedly, all three suspects failed to appear at their August 2015 hearing, and were ordered removed in absentia. Had these suspects appeared for their mandatory court date, they would have likely not had the opportunity to murder a 17-year-old high school student from Loudoun County.
Unfortunately, incidents such as this have become too common. It is now customary to hear stories of undocumented or gang-affiliated criminal aliens who are discretionarily released from custody, fail to honor their NTA, and receive protection in sanctuary jurisdictions. As a result, American citizens have been subject to preventable violent criminal acts. It is clear that the federal government has failed in its role to prevent great risk to the public safety.
For a more thorough understanding of the incidents surrounding the shooting, please provide the following information no later than October 28, 2015.
b. How long were they in the custody of a resettlement contractor before being released to the appropriate sponsors?
c. Who were each of the three UACs released to, and were those sponsors interviewed by immigration officials? Please explain.
d. Were the respective sponsors held accountable for the UAC’s failure to appear in immigration court?
e. Have the sponsors sought any immigration benefits?
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Should you have any questions, please contact Katherine Nikas of my Committee staff at (202) 224-5225.
Charles E. Grassley
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Senate Committee on the Judiciary