Amid the escalating national clash over immigration, new cases have emerged in federal court in South Florida showing how five undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala, all with criminal records, had been previously deported and returned undetected across the southwest border.
One of the five defendants, a Mexican, was deported at least seven times previously, while the others have at least one previous deportation each on their record.
The new cases raise to more than 10 the number of defendants in federal court in the first two months of the year charged with illegal reentry after deportation. They also highlight two contentious issues that have become part of a national debate: that the U.S. has a porous border and a faulty immigration system whose agents arrest previously expelled foreign nationals only to arrest them again when they return weeks, months or years later.
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One recent study delivered to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said two of every five deported immigrants attempt to return.
The cases come to light at a time when President Donald Trump has put immigration front and center on the national agenda, with his executive orders on the construction of a wall along the Mexican border, the deportation of between two and three million immigrants with criminal records, and ending federal funding for so-called “sanctuary” communities.
Of the five most recent cases, all had been previously prosecuted criminally for having reentered without authorization.
But the case that stands out is that of Héctor Eduardo Ramírez Gutiérrez, the Mexican national deported seven times previously, according to a criminal complaint filed in court by a Border Patrol agent.
The Ramírez Gutiérrez case began Jan. 10 when a Boynton Beach police officer responded to an emergency call at a shop where the defendant had been observed stealing items.
“Upon making contact with the subject and requesting identification, the subject had in his possession a driver license from Mexico with his picture on it,” according to the criminal complaint. “At that point, the officer contacted the West Palm Beach Border Patrol for assistance in establishing the alienage of the subject.”
Ramírez Gutiérrez was arrested and charged with grand theft and providing false information to a law enforcement officer, according to the criminal complaint.
Border Patrol agent Jeffrey Martínez responded to the police call and questioned the defendant, who admitted to being illegally in the country, and to last crossing the border without immigration papers in 2011, according to the complaint.
Later, when Martínez checked Ramírez Gutiérrez’s immigration record, he made a startling discovery.
The undocumented immigrant had been deported at least seven times previously and had a criminal record as well, according to the criminal complaint. It said Ramírez Gutiérrez had first been deported in February 1986 followed by subsequent expulsions in January 1999, May 2000, June 2001, July 2006, November 2007 and November 2011.
The Border Patrol criminal complaint also said Ramírez Gutiérrez had been convicted of theft in 2000 in California, of illegal reentry after deportation in Missouri in 2005, of entry without inspection in California in 2006 and of illegal reentry after deportation in Alabama in 2009.
The Border Patrol did not respond to a request from el Nuevo Herald for comment, and the court file did not show any attorneys hired or assigned to the defendant.
Besides Ramírez Gutiérrez, at least three other Mexicans and one Guatemalan — all with criminal records — were also arrested in South Florida by different police departments and then handed over to immigration authorities for criminal prosecution in federal courts.
One of the Mexicans, previously deported in 2007, had also previously been convicted of entering the country illegally through the Texas-Mexico border nine years ago. A second Mexican, previously removed in 2002, had a record of driving under the influence and without a valid driver license. The third Mexican, deported previously in 2015, had been convicted of aggravated battery in Palm Beach County in 1999.
The Guatemalan, deported previously in 2009, had been arrested for aggravated domestic battery and child abuse also in Palm Beach.
Follow Alfonso Chardy on Twitter: @AlfonsoChardy