The Obama administration is admitting it granted executive amnesty protections to a known gang member — one charged with four counts of murder — and is now reviewing prior approvals to double check that other gang members have not also been approved for deferred status.
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) dated Friday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Leon Rodriguez explains that Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez’s request for deferred status under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program “should not have been approved” based on standard procedure.
Rangel-Hernandez is currently charged with the murder of four people, including former “America’s Next Top Model” contestant Mirjana Puhar.
On Tuesday Grassley released the letter and said it confirmed his fears, that USCIS is not being careful enough in adjudicating applications for Obama’s DACA program.
“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,” 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,” he added.
Rangel-Hernandez’s alleged crimes took place in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) called the administration’s confirmation “chilling.”
“For some time, the administration has promised Americans that those who qualify for their executive order would fully meet a set of guidelines meant to keep criminals out of our country,” Burr said Tuesday. ”We now know that isn’t true and that the agency tasked with implementing the President’s edict cannot effectively carry out the rule without compromising the safety of Americans.”
“This is one more reason why the President’s habit of governing by proclamation is a poor replacement for actual law making,” he added.
According to USCIS, Rangel-Hernandez’s gang affiliation was known and documented in a federal crime database called TECS. USCIS said his application should have received a review by USCIS’ Background Check Unit before a decision was made. USCIS did not clarify whether the mistake was on the background checker or adjudicator’s end.
USCIS added that it would be offering refresher training to its officers on these matters and “is in the process of completing a review of prior DACA approvals to determine if requests from known gang members were processed in a manner consistent with standard protocol. USCIS has identified certain cases that merit further review and it therefore undertaking a review of each of these individual case files.”
Another North Carolina lawmaker and Senate Judiciary Committee member, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis called for more detailed background checks.
“The flawed implementation of the President’s blanket deferred action program has created a loophole that allows dangerous criminals who came here illegally – even known gang members – to stay in the country,” he said Tuesday.
As of March 20, 2015 the Obama administration had approved more than 866,638 DACA applications, 223,826 of which were renewals.