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Did the Newark murder suspects benefit from illegal alien amnesty programs?

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By Michelle Malkin  •  August 23, 2007 05:25 AM

jovel2.jpg
How did he get here? How did he stay?

If you have been following the media coverage of the criminal alien suspects in the Newark execution murders, one thing may have jumped out at you. No, not Geraldo Rivera’s lying hysterics. I’m talking about the ambiguity and confusion surrounding the exact immigration status of two of the suspects. Time to move beyond the obvious debate about sanctuary cities and dig a little deeper.

Let’s start with Melvin Jovel. He’s the 18-year-old immigrant from Honduras who was the last of the murder suspects arrested in the case. As I noted on Tuesday, Jovel appeared in court this week and provided the following information:

The sixth suspect arrested in the Newark schoolyard shootings pleaded not guilty to murder and robbery charges this morning during a brief appearance in Essex County Superior Court in Newark.

Melvin Jovel, 18, who appeared in a long-sleeve white shirt and tan slacks, spoke softly as he answered a series of questions from the judge. At the end of the hearing, he was sent back to the Essex County Jail, where he is being held in protective custody on $2 million bail.

Jovel, who is from Honduras, told the judge he does not have a Social Security number or a green card, but his immigration status remains unclear, prosecutors said. A U.S. passport was found among his belongings when he was arrested Sunday night, but officials are still trying to determine whether the passport is valid, Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Thomas A. McTigue said. Federal authorities have placed a detainer on Jovel because his status is uncertain, McTigue said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials participated in Jovel’s arrest, and a spokesman for the agency said it becomes involved “when they suspect a person is in the county illegally.”

But the spokesman, Michael W. Gilhooley, declined to comment today on whether officials had determined Jovel’s status.

No Social Security number. No green card. A US passport of uncertain validity. But they can’t figure out his immigration status. So, what could be going on here? Let’s step back a moment. You may recall that in January 2005, I criticized the Bush administration’s decision to extend a mass amnesty program called the “Temporary Protected Status” program. President Bush renewed the temporary work and residence permits of 248,282 illegal aliens from El Salvador under TPS and justified the renewal in 2005 because El Salvador was still rebuilding after earthquakes that struck the country in January 2001. As I explained at the time:

Ostensibly, the TPS program is supposed to allow people from countries experiencing a natural disaster or civil war to come to the U.S. temporarily. Most of the Salvadorans granted TPS status, however, were already living in the U.S. illegally before the earthquake struck. In effect, the TPS designation is amnesty by another name. There is nothing temporary about it. As the Federation for American Immigration Reform noted when the the decision to grant TPS status was announced back in 2001, “based on the track record of TPS authorizations, it is certain that it will be anything but temporary.”

In addition to El Salvador, the US has granted TPS to tens of thousands from several other countries, including Melvin Jovel’s native Honduras and Nicaragua (the home country of two of the other Newark execution murder suspects, Rodolfo Godinez and his half-brother, Alexander Alfaro (who will appear in court today in Virginia, where he is expected to waive extradition to New Jersey). TPS Backgrounder here.

The reporting and on-the-record remarks from ICE make it seem as though determining Jovel’s immigration status is a complicated matter. But here’s a simple question: Did Jovel or a parent/guardian file an I-821 application form for TPS or not? Was it approved or not? If so, when?

According to this NYT article, Jovel took a trip back to Honduras about two years ago and returned to the US. Under the TPS program, special permission must be granted to leave the US:

An individual granted TPS must remain continuously physically present in the United States. The grant of TPS status does not mean that you have permission to travel abroad, though permission to travel may be granted by the district director according to the Service’s advance parole provisions. There is no appeal to a denial of advance parole. Failure to obtain advance parole prior to traveling abroad may result in the withdrawal of your TPS and/or the institution or re-calendaring of removal proceedings.

If Jovel had TPS, did he receive permission to go back to Honduras or did he violate the program rules? How was he then allowed back into the US if in fact he violated the terms of his TPS designation? Had deportation/removal proceedings been instituted against him or not?

Now, let’s look at Rodolfo Godinez.

godinez2.jpg
How did he get here? How did he stay?

Recall the Newark Star -Ledger’s report:

Rodolfo Antonio Godinez Gomez entered the U.S. from Nicaragua on Oct. 24, 1992. He was ordered deported on May 5, 1993, but it isn’t clear if he ever left the country, according to Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontura. “It seems to me that he was illegal,” he said.

The Star-Ledger also reported:

He arrived in the country in 1992 and obtained permanent legal residency in 2001.

He had eluded cops for four years after becoming a fugitive on July 7, 2003, when he ditched a Superior Court hearing on charges that he robbed and attacked three people in Irvington a year earlier.

TPS for Nicaraguans was first extended in 1998 and most recently extended again this spring for another 18 months to January 5, 2009. An alien with TPS can apply for permanent legal residency or other immigration benefits. Godinez arrived six years before there was a TPS for Nicaraguans. But immigration courts have allowed illegal aliens to claim the status long after its initial institution and fraud is rampant. Again, a simple question is: Did Godinez file an I-821 application form for TPS or not? Was it approved or not? If so, when?

If not, it is possible Godinez benefited from a different amnesty program for Nicaraguans and others. Eleven years after the massive Reagan-era illegal alien amnesty that was supposed to be a one-time deal, Congress passed a new rolling amnesty in 1997 as part of the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Acts (NACARA). Nicaraguans who had lived in the US illegally since 1995, along with their spouses and unmarried children, were automatically granted legal resident status under NACARA, as long as they applied by April 1, 2000. Whether Godinez entered the country legally or illegally in 1992, he may have still been eligible for NACARA benefits despite the deportation order he apparently received in 1992.

Again, a simple question: Did Godinez and/or his parents/guardians apply for NACARA benefits or not? The same set of questions applies to Alfaro.

And a follow-up: Who in Congress will act to ensure that TPS and NACARA benefits are not handed out like Pez candy to criminal aliens, gang members, fraudsters, and deportation evaders?

Yesterday, I received the following e-mail from a reader:

Michelle,

I am an employee of ICE and have firsthand knowledge of the murders in Newark, NJ…In the case of the murders, most of these individuals and there families were either unlawfully present in the United States at time of arrest or had been unlawfully present at one time and then…given Temporary Protected Status or TPS to remain LEGALLY in the US until they commit AND are CONVICTED of either 1 FELONY or two MISDEMEANORS. Do you see something wrong with this picture?

[A]n illegal alien, i.e., a suspected violent MS-13 street gang member, can commit crimes all he/she wants and never get deported [with] TPS because a CONVICTION is needed to strip the TPS. By the way, TPS affects El Salvador, Honduras [and] Nicaragua. The most popular countries for MS-13 members to be from (other than the US) are those three countries. Also 18th Street gang members are also from that area. Additionally, TPS has just been extended until 2009 by the current US Administration…

…By having TPS, these individuals are untouchable and it is something they can obtain while here at the time of apprehension. I have seen instances where illegal alien street gang members have been left completely alone to prosper because they “CAN GET TPS.”

Bottom line: Poor bail and bond systems in the US state/federal courts, liberal immigration courts & immigration court precedent and political appeasement cause many of the illegal criminal aliens to be released to the street over and over and over again.

Thanks for hearing me out,
Concerned ICE employee

I am contacting ICE directly today to try and nail down the status and immigration history of Jovel, Godinez, and Alfaro, but wouldn’t it be helpful if the big media outlets that have been covering this story did the same?

Will the MSM start asking the questions it should be asking? Or are these policy matters all “irrelevant details” too?

The victims’ families deserve answers, not obfuscation. Not evasion. Not condescension. Not ignorant cable TV news screaming.

Answers. Then action.

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