HOUSTON, Texas–As migrants from Central America continue to flood the U.S.-Mexico border, many are concerned that criminals may attempt to take advantage of “crisis” to attempt to enter the country illegally.
Celim Maricruz Perez-Lopez, a 22-year-old woman from Honduras, was deported from the U.S. on Tuesday. She is wanted in her home country for kidnapping. According to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) press release, Perez-Lopez was arrested on December 19, 2013 in Eagle Pass, Texas. She was arrested by Border Patrol agents as she attempted to enter the United States illegally.
Subsequent to spending 30 days in prison for illegal entry, Perez-Lopez was reportedly turned over to ICE. According to ICE, in March an immigration judge ordered that the 22-year-old be removed from the country.
Perez-Lopez was ultimately turned over to Honduran officials after being air lifted by ICE’s Air Operations (IAO) Unit.
Steve Boll, an Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) field office director in Houston, reportedly said, “Identifying and removing foreign fugitives from the United States is an ICE priority. The cooperation between the United States and El Salvadoran governments resulted in this foreign fugitive being safely returned to her home country where she can stand trial for her alleged crimes.”
The ICE press release pointed out that ERO has removed more than 720 “foreign fugitives” from the U.S. since 2009. What was not mentioned, however, was the fact that many criminal illegal immigrants are released onto U.S. soil by federal authorities each year.
In 2013 alone, more than 36,000 criminal illegal immigrants were set free by U.S. officials. The released individuals were collectively convicted of 88,000 crimes. These convictions include 426 sexual assaults, 303 kidnappings, 193 homicides, 1,317 domestic violence assaults, and 1,724 weapon offenses.
At the time of their release, the immigrants were being processed for deportation. ICE could have held these individuals in detention, but chose to set them free anyways.
As thousands of illegal immigrants continue to overwhelm the border, officials claim that deportation efforts are being focused on criminals. While it is reassuring that some, such as Perez-Lopez, are being deported, last year’s figures make it easy to assume that many are slipping through the cracks.
Some have additionally raised concerns that some teenaged migrants, who technically qualify as minors, entering the U.S. may have criminal histories or cartel ties that are being overlooked. Art Del Cueto, the Tucson Border Patrol Union president, reportedly said of the recent illegal immigration wave, “They’re not all little kids. Some are 17 years old and they have possible ties to gang members yet they will be relocated in the U.S. with family.”
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate.