The North Carolina teenager accused in the killing last month of a former ‘America's Next Top Model' contestant and two of her friends was slated for deportation over a drug charge, but allowed to stay in the country because of President Barack Obama's immigration plan, two senators claim.
Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Thom Tillis of North Carolina said in a statement that Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez — who is charged in the February murders of 19-year-old model Mirjana Puhar and two of her friends —was supposed to be deported following a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge. Rangel-Hernandez, however, had his application for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy approved in December 2013 before his deportation was completed and he was allowed to stay in the U.S.
"This raises serious concerns about USCIS's (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) review and approval of other DACA applicants and points to potential vulnerabilities in the system," Grassley and Tillis said in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
DACA, as the program has come to be known in immigration circles, was launched in advance of the 2012 presidential elections and allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation.
Rangel-Hernandez, along with his accomplice, 19-year-old David Ezequel Lopez, are charged in the Feb. 24 murders of Puhar, her 23-year-old boyfriend Jonathan Alvarado and Alvardado's 21-year-old best friend Jusmar Gonzaga-Garcia. The slayings happened in Charlotte, N.C. and are thought to be drug-related.
In their letter to Johnson, Grassley and Tillis indicate that USCIS had known that Rangel-Hernandez was an alleged gang member and are asking USCIS to provide them with the number of DACA applicants who have gang and criminal affiliations among other things.
"[W]histleblowers have alleged that Mr. Rangel-Hernandez's DACA application was approved although U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had full knowledge that he was a known gang members," the senators wrote in their letter. "Therefore, we are seeking the Department's official policy related to DACA adjudications for suspected or known gang members."
Puhar, who started modeling at the age of 12 and competed on cycle 21 of Americas's Next Top Model last year, emigrated to the U.S. in 2000 with her family from her native Serbia.