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Judge Grants Illegal Immigrant Work Privileges in Jail Sentence for Drunken-Driving Incident

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Armando Rodriguez-Benitez, 35, was pulled over by authorities for driving with three times the legal limit of alcohol while headed in the wrong direction.Milwaukee County Sheriff

A Wisconsin sheriff is protesting a recent “slap-on-the wrist” court ruling that allows a man in the country illegally to seek employment as he completes an 11-month jail term from driving drunk in the wrong direction on an interstate.

"Why would we let an illegal immigrant out on work release to look for a job he's not supposed to have? He's in the country illegally," Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. said, according to a report by The Journal Sentinel.

Clarke told his office staff Thursday to inform the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and ask that the man be deported, the paper reported.

On July 21, Armando Rodriguez-Benitez, 35, was pulled over by authorities for driving with a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit while headed in the wrong direction on the I-43, the paper reported. An oncoming car was forced to intentionally crash into the median wall to avoid a head-on collision with the intoxicated man's car, according to the report.

The paper, citing online court records, reported that a county judge sentenced him to 11 months at a county jail with so-called Huber work release privileges, under a statute that allows some inmates to leave jail to maintain their employment while serving out their sentence.

Rick D. Steinberg, Benitez’s lawyer, told FoxNews.com that his client has a "high degree" of character and education that makes the work release appropriate.

"This is not your normal criminal," Steinberg said, adding that he has a supportive family and deep roots in the community. "Bottom line is that he made a mistake, and he apologized to the court in a better way than I could have."

Steinberg didn't dispute that Benitez is in the country illegally, though he declined to discuss Benitez's employment status.

Christine Neuman-Ortiz, from Voces de la Frontera, an immigration rights group, told a local radio station that the sheriff is stereotyping immigrants. 

"I think the sheriff should know he's not an immigration judge," she said reported WTMJ. "The decision was in regards to driving violations and not related to immigration issues."

Benitez pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering safety, a felony, according to court documents. He was fined for drunken driving as a first offense, which is a traffic violation in Wisconsin.

The sheriff, meanwhile, criticized the sentence, considering Benitez had faced up to 10 years in prison and, in Clarke's view, should have been deported immediately.

A phone call to the judge's office was not immediately returned.

"If the judge didn't find this incident serious enough to send him to prison for an extended period of time, then an 11-month bed-and-breakfast stay at the county jail is a waste of taxpayer resources," Clarke said. "The deportation process should start today, not 11 months from now.”

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