National Security

Authorities Had Detention Space To Hold Alleged Illegal Immigrant Killers — But They Released Them Anyway

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Jason Hopkins Immigration Reporter
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Federal immigration authorities previously released two illegal immigrants who are now accused of killing a 12-year-old Houston girl — but a congressional report says there were plenty of detention beds available to keep them in custody.

The Houston Police Department last week arrested Franklin Joe Pena Ramos, 26, and Johan Jose Martinez Rangel, 22, both Venezuelan nationals, for the strangulation killing of 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, several days after her body was found in a local creek. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed that both men were released into the country on the same day they unlawfully crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, but detention data released by a House committee indicates they could have remained in physical custody. (RELATED: Over Half A Million Illegal Migrants Crossed Southern Border While Biden Claimed He Had No Power To Stop Them)

“Martinez and Pena both illegally entered the U.S. without inspection, parole or admission by a U.S. immigration officer on an unknown date and at an unknown location,” an ICE spokesperson stated to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “On March 14, Martinez was apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol near El Paso, Texas. That same day he was released on an order of recognizance with a notice to appear.

“Pena was apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol on May 28 near El Paso. He was also released on an order of recognizance with a notice to appear the same day he was apprehended,” the statement continued.

GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA – MAY 29: An ICE agent with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), watches as Guatemalan police investigate the scene after detaining a suspected human trafficker on May 29, 2019 in Guatemala City. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

However, a report by the House Homeland Security Committee accused the Biden administration of releasing the two men when there were thousands of empty beds available at the time to keep housing.

“The two illegal aliens suspected in Nungaray’s murder were apprehended on March 14, 2024, and May 28, 2024, respectively,” the report states. “On March 10, roughly 2,500 ICE beds stood empty, while on May 19, roughly 5,000 beds were available, and around 3,000 were available on June 2.”

“Americans must understand that these tragedies were preventable, on a number of levels,” the report said.

Congress appropriated a 41,500 minimum detention bed requirement for fiscal year 2024. However, House Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green said in his report that the Biden administration has “consistently refused” to fully utilize these ICE beds since early March.

Nungaray’s body was found in a north Houston creek last week by a passerby, according to a local news outlet. Investigators believe she snuck out of her home beforehand, and surveillance footage led them to Pena and Martinez, who were living together as roommates at a local apartment complex.

“Every form of detention has been quietly morphed into a catch-and-release cog,” RJ Hauman, president of the National Immigration Center for Enforcement (NICE) and a visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said to the DCNF.

EL CENTRO, CA – MARCH 1: A man sleeps in a dormitory for Mexican and foreign nationals convicted of a felony or deportable offense at a federal detention center on March 1, 2006 in El Centro, California. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

“Not only does Biden refuse to fill all detention beds provided by Congress, he doesn’t properly use alternative forms,” Hauman said. “GPS monitoring has plummeted and many illegal aliens like these murderers are often quickly unenrolled.”

“They need to explain while single adult males from gang havens aren’t in custodial detention or promptly removed — or else tragedies like this will continue to happen,” he continued.

Republicans have long battled the Biden administration and his Department of Homeland Security over the amount of minimum detention beds that should be available as the border crisis rages on. Chairman Green earlier this month ripped the Biden administration for consistently failing to utilize all of the detention bed space available.

“The fact is that ever since 2021, Secretary Mayorkas has consistently asked for fewer ICE beds than the previous administration, and then failed to make use of the resources Congress ultimately authorized — despite record numbers of illegal crossings on his watch,” Green, a Republican, said in a press release. “So far just this month, thousands of ICE beds have gone unused, so forgive me if I don’t take the administration’s rhetoric about ‘freeing up resources’ very seriously.”

The murder in Houston follows several other high-profile crimes allegedly committed at the hands of illegal immigrants, such as the murder of Georgia nursing student Laken Riley, the rape and murder of a Maryland mother of five while on a hiking trail and the shooting of two New York Police Department officers during a police chase.

ICE confirmed that they have lodged immigration detainers with the Harris County, Texas Jail for both Martinez and Pena. The Texas district attorney involved in the case has also said “the evidence is clear that a sexual assault likely happened.”

ICE did not respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.

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