Feds ad­mit bungling amnesty for ‘Top Model’ mur­der sus­pect

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The il­le­gal im­mi­grant ac­cused of killing a for­mer “Amer­ica’s Next Top Model” con­tes­tant and three oth­ers in a drug-fu­eled spree was a known gang mem­ber with drug ar­rests on his record at the time he was ap­proved for Pres­i­dent Obama’s amnesty for Dream­ers, a top law­maker re­vealed last week.

U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices now ac­knowl­edges that it bun­gled the case two years ago when it ap­proved the man for amnesty. The agency said it has re­voked his sta­tus — a month af­ter he was ar­rested and charged with mur­der in con­nec­tion with four deaths in North Carolina.

“Based on stan­dard pro­ce­dures and pro­cesses in place at the time, the [de­ferred ac­tion] re­quest and re­lated em­ploy­ment au­tho­riza­tion should not have been ap­proved,” USCIS Direc­tor Leon Ro­driguez said about his agency’s cat­a­strophic er­ror in ap­prov­ing Em­manuel Je­sus Ran­gel-Her­nan­dez.

The case has be­come a black eye on Mr. Obama’s 2012 amnesty for Dream­ers, known in gov­ern­ments­peak as De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals, which has ap­proved more than 600,000 ap­pli­ca­tions.

Mr. Obama in­sisted that he could ad­min­is­ter his pro­gram to keep mostly lawabid­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants in the U.S. with­out any fear of de­por­ta­tion while weed­ing out se­ri­ous crim­i­nals who he said should be de­ported.

But in­for­ma­tion Mr. Ro­driguez sub­mit­ted last week to Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Chuck Grass­ley, Iowa Repub­li­can, and North Carolina’s two U.S. sen­a­tors, also Repub­li­cans, sug­gests that gang mem­bers be­sides Mr. Ran­gel-Her­nan­dez have been granted ap­proval un­der the de­por­ta­tion amnesty.

USCIS said at least 20 oth­ers who were ap­proved for amnesty un­der De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals had sus­pected gang ties listed in the key fed­eral data­base.

Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials specif­i­cally iden­ti­fied gang ties as a rea­son for Dream­ers to be dis­qual­i­fied from amnesty.

Mr. Grass­ley said the agency ei­ther missed Mr. Ran­gel-Her­nan­dez’s gang ties be­cause it didn’t check its own data­bases, or else the agency knew and ap­proved Mr. Ran­gelHer­nan­dez any­way.

“It’s no se­cret that USCIS staff is un­der in­tense pres­sure to ap­prove ev­ery DACA ap­pli­ca­tion that comes across their desk, and based on this in­for­ma­tion, it’s clear that ad­e­quate pro­to­cols are not in place to pro­tect public safety,” Mr. Grass­ley said. “The fact is that this tragedy could have been avoided if the agency had a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy with re­gard to crim­i­nal aliens and gang mem­bers.”

Mr. Ro­driguez’s let­ter did not say which of those oc­curred, and the agency didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to fol­low-up ques­tions about the let­ter — in­clud­ing whether any­one has been dis­ci­plined for the er­ror.

He said he couldn’t es­ti­mate how many il­le­gal im­mi­grants were de­nied amnesty be­cause of gang ties be­cause his agency doesn’t track that in­for­ma­tion.

Mr. Ro­driguez did say he has put his of­fi­cers through re­train­ing in light of the case, mak­ing sure of­fi­cers know how to use the back­ground check data­base and are aware of when they are sup­posed to deny ap­pli­ca­tions based on gang con­nec­tions.

Mr. Ran­gel-Her­nan­dez’s amnesty has been re­voked, though he re­mains in the U.S. await­ing trial on the mur­der charges, the direc­tor said.

Po­lice have ac­cused Mr. Ran­gel-Her­nan­dez of killing Mir­jana Puhar, a con­tes­tant last year on the “Top Model” pro­gram, and three oth­ers in two shoot­ings in North Carolina this year.

Puhar also was an im­mi­grant. She was born in Ser­bia but fled with her fam­ily at age 5 af­ter war broke out, The Char­lotte Ob­server re­ported.

Mr. Ran­gel-Her­nan­dez was fac­ing de­por­ta­tion at the time the ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­proved him for the amnesty on Aug. 26, 2013, grant­ing him two-year legal sta­tus and a work per­mit. Af­ter Mr. Ran­gel-Her­nan­dez was granted the amnesty, an im­mi­gra­tion judge dis­missed the de­por­ta­tion case and al­lowed him to stay in the U.S.

The 2012 amnesty for Dream­ers — young adults con­sid­ered the most sym­pa­thetic fig­ures in the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate — is still in ef­fect. But a fed­eral judge has halted Mr. Obama’s ex­panded amnesty, an­nounced in Novem­ber, which ap­plies to il­le­gal im­mi­grant par­ents of chil­dren who are U.S. cit­i­zens.

As many as 5 mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants could qual­ify for the ex­panded amnesty.

Mr. Obama’s at­tor­neys have filed court pa­pers ask­ing for the amnesty to be restarted. An ap­peals court last week heard oral ar­gu­ments on the re­quest, with judges pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to how thor­oughly USCIS was con­duct­ing back­ground checks.

The rev­e­la­tions this week could dent the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s case.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Direc­tor Leon Ro­driguez says U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices erred in grant­ing de­ferred ac­tion to a known gang mem­ber.

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