The Department of Homeland Security missed signs that an illegal immigrant juvenile had ties to MS-13 when admitting him to the U.S., where he now stands accused of murdering a 20-year-old woman in Maryland.
The House Judiciary Committee says the 17-year-old illegal immigrant had previously been arrested in El Salvador for associating with MS-13 and had gang tattoos.
Yet Homeland Security caught and released the juvenile, turning him over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which then released him into the community.
The juvenile was arrested in January in connection with the death of Kayla Hamilton, who was sexually assaulted and strangled in Aberdeen, Maryland, last year.
The Judiciary Committee launched a probe into the case and found it littered with missteps and bungles by the government that allowed the boy to be out on the streets.
“If we had stricter border policies, my daughter would be alive today,” Tammy Nobles, mother of the murdered woman, said Tuesday in testimony to the committee. “I am her voice now, and I am going to fight with everything I have to get her story told.”
Investigators said the juvenile murder suspect arrived in the U.S. on March 23, 2022, as an Unaccompanied Alien Child, or UAC. That’s a designation the government gives to a migrant who claims to be under the age of 18 and who shows up at the border without a parent.
He told authorities his family paid $4,000 to a guide who smuggled him over the border and claimed he was fleeing gang violence in his home country.
He was one of 14,137 UACs to be caught entering the U.S. that month and one of 368,207 who entered the U.S. between January 2021 and April 2023.
That’s by far the largest UAC surge in history, and it has overwhelmed the feds, forcing them to cut corners in vetting and releasing the children.
Congressional investigators said those shortcuts proved deadly in this case.
Following the usual procedures for UACs from countries that aren’t contiguous with the U.S., the juvenile was quickly sent to HHS for care while authorities searched for a sponsor to take him in. On May 3, 2022, he was placed with someone identified as either a first cousin or aunt.
Ms. Nobles said that woman, who was in the country illegally herself, “couldn’t handle him” and the UAC went to live with a half-brother in a trailer home. But the half-brother soon told the boy he had to leave.
He found a place in the same trailer park as Hamilton and her boyfriend, who had gone to work the night Hamilton was killed.
Hamilton tried to call the boyfriend during the attack but her call went to voicemail. Ms. Nobles said the voicemail is a two-minute, 30-second recording of the murder. When the boyfriend returned, he found a phone charger wrapped so tightly around Hamilton’s neck that he had to use his teeth to get it off, Ms. Nobles said.
In the case files, HHS employees said the boy had “no behavioral issues” and “demonstrated good judgment and age-appropriate behaviors.”
“These conclusions, in light of his brutal murder of Kayla, were obviously wrong,” investigators said in their report Tuesday.
After Hamilton’s murder, when investigators identified the 17-year-old as a suspect, they found out about his MS-13 associations “by merely contacting El Salvadoran officials,” investigators said, suggesting that step was skipped by Homeland Security and HHS.
Even after the illegal immigrant was charged with murder and his gang tattoos and past criminal record were revealed, he was placed in a foster home with other children, endangering them, the Judiciary Committee said.
“Not all aliens are criminals, but even one crime committed against an American by a criminal illegal alien incentivized into this country by the Biden administration is one too many,” the House committee said.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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