In a shocking admission, the Obama administration says that it should not have awarded deferred deportation status to Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez, an illegal immigrant with known gang ties who stands accused of murdering four people in North Carolina, including former “America’s Top Model” contestant Mirjana Puhar.
Rangel-Hernandez, 19, was granted amnesty under President Obama’s unilateral amnesty program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) director Leon Rodriguez admitted in a letter sent Friday to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Senate Judiciary Committee.
Rangel-Hernandez allegedly killed Puhar and three others in Charlotte in February.
In his letter, Rodriguez admitted that Rangel-Hernandez received work authorization and amnesty through DACA despite being a documented gang member.
Rangel-Hernandez came to the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2012 because of a marijuana charge and applied for DACA on Jan. 22, 2013. His gang affiliation was not known to federal authorities at the time, Rodriguez stated. (RELATED: Confirmed: Reality TV Model’s Accused Murder Is An Obama DREAMer)
But the agency did know about his gang ties by the time USCIS approved Rangel-Hernandez’s DACA request on Aug. 26, 2013. After he received DACA approval, deportation proceedings against him were dropped in December 2013.
“Based on standard procedures and protocols in place at the time, the DACA request and related employment authorization should not have been approved,” Rodriguez admitted.
In the letter, Rodriguez states that Rangel-Hernandez’s gang ties should have been flagged by USCIS’ Background Check Unit (BCU) and that his DACA application should not have gone through.
“While records indicate that, pursuant to standard protocols as stated above, the case was appropriately sent to the BCU based upon the derogatory information in the background check, the outcome of the resolution process and final decision did not comply with USCIS policy,” Rodriguez said.
“Given the fact that the individual was identified as a known gang member, his request should have been denied by the adjudicator.”
“This statement by USCIS confirms what we have feared — that USCIS is not doing a thorough job reviewing the individuals who it allows to stay in this country under the President’s deferred action program,” Grassley, a Republican, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“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.”
“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,” Grassley continued.
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also faulted the Obama administration’s implementation of the amnesty program.
“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,” Tillis said.
In his letter, Rodriguez stated that he is acting to prevent such errors from happening again.
He ordered refresher training courses for all immigration service officers who adjudicate DACA applications and for all members of the Background Check Unit.
The training was held at USCIS headquarters between March 30 and April 10, Rodriguez stated.
He also said that the agency is reviewing prior DACA approvals “to determine if requests from known gang members were processed in a manner consistent with standard protocol.”
He stated that the agency has identified other cases that “merit further review.” The review should be complete in the next several weeks, Rodriguez stated.