Deported justice goes beyond Dallas County borders

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by DAVID SCHECHTER / WFAA

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

wfaa.com

Posted on March 19, 2010 at 9:10 PM

DALLAS -  A News 8 investigation forced Dallas area law enforcement to close a loop hole allowing illegal immigrants accused of serious crimes to go free before they ever go to trial.

But, now WFAA has found the problem stretches far beyond Dallas and with no solution in sight.

In a place where all rest in peace, a 19-year-old woman from Dallas lived in terror. She was choked, brutally raped and left bleeding in a cemetery. The 11-year-old case went cold, until last summer. That was when a positive DNA match came back for Joel Guerrero Martinez, sources said.

Turns out Martinez was sitting in a Florida jail on a drunk driving arrest. But, before Dallas police could pick him up, Martinez was deported to his home country of Mexico and set free.

"Once a suspect is removed from the country, it really makes ongoing law enforcement investigations difficult, if not impossible," said John Feere, with the non-partisan Center for Immigration Studies in D.C. "It has the potential to happen in pretty much any state."

The case of Martinez highlights a systemic problem uncovered by WFAA. Illegal immigrants charged with violent crimes, like rape and murder, are being deported before going to trial.

In the last six months, WFAA reporting on the public safety failing has been confined to Dallas County. Now, it's been discovered it may be a problem across the country.

In January outside Boston, Genesis Orrego - a citizen of Guatemala - was charged with forcefully raping a 10-year-old girl. Orrego's girlfriend was the child's babysitter.

While everyone stood in court waiting for proceedings to begin, prosecutors were furious to learn Orrego had just been deported.

A year ago, also outside Boston, Kamil Ostrowski - of Poland - was charged with raping a 14-year-old girl he allegedly got drunk and assaulted.   He was deported while awaiting trial.

In late 2008 outside New York City, Carlos Ulloa-Murillo - of Honduras - was charged with molesting a 12-year-old girl. He too was awaiting trial when he was deported.

"Americans do not want to see an illegal alien who has committed a crime basically go free," Feere said.

In all cases the cause was the same. After an arrest, the district attorney's office was usually not notified until a case was in the system for several weeks.  In that gap of time, the accused pays his bond. Since the accused is in the United States illegally, he is then turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It's job is to deport regardless of pending charges.

Finally, the courts often release bail bond companies from their financial obligations, which removes their incentive to track down a defendant.

"It's not in the thousands, tens of thousands," said Charlie Williams, a former administrator with ICE. 

He believes this problem is widespread across the country.

"Everyone's doing a good job," he said. "They're doing the best they can with what they have.  But, these problems are massive. They're massive."

Previous WFAA reports have resulted in effective local solutions to close the law enforcement loophole. Namely, higher bonds for illegal aliens have been set to keep the accused around for trial. Better cooperation between federal and Dallas County officials has also bet set up.

But, it's becoming clear the problem is bigger than Dallas County. Experts say it's now time for a national solution for a national problem.
 

E-mail: dschechter@wfaa.com

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