A leading U.S. senator is demanding to know why a teenager from Central America accused of raping and sodomizing a 14-year-old girl in a Maryland high school was allowed to enter and remain in the U.S. since crossing the border illegally months ago.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said Henry E. Sanchez-Milian, 18, of Guatemala, was detained by Border Patrol in Rio Grande Valley, Texas, last August after entering the U.S. illegally. The immigration status of another suspect in the rape, Jose O. Montano, 17, from El Salvador, was unclear. ICE reported Sanchez was ordered to appear before an immigration judge, but the hearing had not been scheduled. The agency would not release any information about Montano, citing his age.
“On March 16, 2017, a tragic event occurred in Montgomery County, Maryland. According to news reports, a 14-year old student was dragged into a high school restroom and raped by two teenage boys,” Johnson wrote in a March 22 letter to Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “At a hearing March 22, Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, testified if Border Patrol had properly done its job, neither Sanchez-Milian or Montano would have been present in this country to commit this heinous act.”
Johnson wants to know if the teens arrived in the U.S. under the President Obama’s Unaccompanied Minor Program, which allowed thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing violence in their country to cross the border illegally from Central America and remain in the United States. He also wanted to know more about Montano, and whether he also was picked up by Border Patrol.
Johnson’s inquiry followed testimony from Judd, who said: “Had we done our job, that 14-year-old girl would have never been raped. Period. Had we held those individuals in custody, or that one individual in custody pending a determination that this person should be allowed to remain in this country, that rape would not have happened. We failed the citizens of this great nation by not securing the border.”
County charging documents allege that Montano and Sanchez-Milian forced their female classmate into a boy’s bathroom near the school gym last Thursday at 9 a.m., where they allegedly raped and sodomized her and forced her to perform oral sex.
After school officials reported the incident, detectives from the Montgomery County Police Department Special Victims Investigations Division arrested Montano and Sanchez-Milian. A forensic team recovered blood and male fluids from the bathroom, court records show.
Both boys, who are enrolled as freshman because of their weak English language skills, were charged with first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sexual offense and will be tried as adults.
The judge who oversaw their bond hearing refused to release them on bail, because the students are “dangerous and flight risks.”
The case has sent shockwaves through the state, to Congress and to the White House.
"We failed the citizens of this great nation by not securing the border.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer commented on the case Tuesday in a press briefing: "The reason the president has made it such a priority to crack down on illegal immigration is because of cases like this."
ICE has since lodged an immigration detainer against Sanchez-Milian, so ICE can take custody of him when he is released, but it is unclear whether local law enforcement will comply.
Officials in Montgomery County have been pushing to make the area a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, and four days after the girl’s rape the House passed a measure that would essentially make the entire state a safe haven for illegal aliens, criminal or otherwise.
“It is longstanding county policy that county police do not enforce federal immigration law. Neither will they inquire about immigration status when individuals are stopped nor target individuals based on their ethnicity, race or religious beliefs,” said the Charles Immigrant Resource Center in a guide for immigrants who recently moved to Montgomery. “The county’s law enforcement leaders are also committed to our values, and they will continue working to build trust in our community.”
Montgomery County, where the alleged rape took place, is on a list released this week by ICE of “jurisdictions that have enacted policies which limit cooperation with ICE.”
Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan noted in a statement to the media this week about the case: “When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect the public safety and carry out its mission.”
Montgomery County is not the worst, “but it’s pretty bad,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of Policy Studies for the Center for Immigration Studies.
“When Northern Virginia cracked down around 2005 from 2011, many illegals moved to Montgomery County, where they knew they would be treated more leniently,” Vaughan said.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who opposes the sanctuary legislation, said he is “outraged by the brutal and violent rape of a 14-year-old girl in a Rockville public school” and called on Montgomery County “to immediately and fully cooperate with all federal authorities during the investigation.”
“The public has a right to know how something this tragic and unacceptable was allowed to transpire in a public school,” Hogan said.