Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that she didn’t order immigration agents to delay arresting an illegal immigrant and registered sex offender working for Sen. Robert Menendez’s New Jersey office in the middle of his re-election campaign last year.
Republicans said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents’ failure to arrest Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaleta in October showed the holes in President Obama’s new non-deportation policies, which try to steer immigration authorities away from arresting all but the most serious criminal immigrants.
According to Sen. Charles E. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, documents show that agents had planned to arrest the man in October, ahead of the November election, but it was put off until December.
Ms. Napolitano said there were several reasons why the October arrest didn’t happen — including blaming Hurricane Sandy, which she said shut down law enforcement and prosecutors’ officers.
“I did not learn about it until January, and nor did my aides,” she said, adding that she learned about the situation from a news report by the Associated Press detailing the complaints by ICE agents.
Ms. Napolitano said the bigger concern for her is why the man wasn’t deported in 2010, when he was found to have violated the law and was required to register as a sex offender. News reports said Mr. Sanchez was a minor at the time, so the charges against him were not clear.
She said she’s asked for a review of that chain of events.
“He should have been removed at that point in time,” she said,
Mr. Menendez had employed Mr. Sanchez as an intern, which meant he did not need to be run through the E-Verify system, which every member of Congress is required to use to check whether their new hires are legal workers.