The Obama administration last year began the process of granting legal status to a 36-year-old illegal immigrant with a long criminal rap sheet whom agents had twice tried to deport, and who now stands accused of killing his 15-year-old girlfriend, mother of one child with him and pregnant with another.
The Texas case, involving Armando Garcia-Ramirez, a Mexican, is raising new questions about immigration enforcement under President Obama, as supporters of President Trump point to the matter as proof of a broken immigration system.
Mr. Garcia may even have been the girl’s stepfather at the time he impregnated her — something federal authorities apparently missed last year after he was arrested for smuggling five other illegal immigrants into the U.S.
Prosecutors declined to pursue the smuggling case, and Mr. Garcia made bond on immigration charges and was let go.
Months later Mr. Garcia was even approved for a work permit, letting him get a job and making him eligible for taxpayer benefits.
“This guy is the reason that Trump got elected,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican. “No matter how many times people say it’s not true, and the media says things like this are on the fringe, this is why Trump got elected. And in California, this is not a fringe case.”
Mr. Garcia’s criminal record is lengthy.
He was arrested in 2008 for assault, but the local prosecutor opted to drop the case. He was charged with theft in 2009, but the case was dismissed. In 2011 immigration agents arrested him and tried to deport him, but he was granted bond and released.
It’s unclear what happened to that case, but five years later, he was still in the U.S., where he was arrested for smuggling five other illegal immigrants, according to federal documents. Mr. Garcia was turned over to Homeland Security agents, who pushed for a trial, but the local U.S. attorney refused to prosecute, saying there wasn’t a good witness.
Immigration agents again tried to deport Mr. Garcia, but he was again released on bond. A month and a half after he was released, he applied for legal status in the U.S. — despite his criminal record — and in November 2016 the Obama administration approved his work permit, giving him the right to work, get a driver’s license and apply for a Social Security number and taxpayer benefits.
Mr. Garcia’s case touched all three immigration agencies within Homeland Security: Customs and Border Protection, where Border Patrol agents were involved in the smuggling case; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which handled the failed deportation efforts; and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is the agency he asked to approve his legal status.
CBP and USCIS declined to comment, while ICE officials said it was immigration judges who granted him bond in both deportation cases. ICE failed to explain why the cases were never pursued further to actually deport Mr. Garcia from the country.
In the latest case, Mr. Garcia apparently had a lengthy relationship with the 15-year-old girl, whom local reports identified as Jennifer Delgado. According to local news reports, Mr. Garcia was Delgado’s stepfather, and federal documents say they had a one-year-old child together, and that Delgado was nine months pregnant with another child of his.
The one-year-old child would have already been born — to a girl who would have been 14 at the time — when ICE agents and prosecutors last had Mr. Garcia in their custody.
“She cannot consent to sex, so he was obviously sexually assaulting her or sexually abusing her for a number of years in that situation,” Randy McGibney, director of programs at ChildSafe, told News 4 San Antonio.
Federal documents say Mr. Garcia subsequently tried to commit suicide with the .22 caliber weapon used to kill his girlfriend and stepdaughter.
ICE agents have once again said they’ll try to deport him, if and when he’s released by Texas authorities after the conclusion of his case — and any sentence — on the new murder charge.
For Mr. Hunter, however, it’s too late.
“This is common sense. After his first arrest, he should have been sent home, period. Not bonded out. Sent home, quickly,” the congressman said. “This guy would be at the front of the line under President Trump.”