Politics & Government

NC Senators: Don’t let gang members get immigration benefits

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

North Carolina’s Republican senators have joined Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to file legislation prohibiting people with gang ties from gaining immigration benefits.

The bill comes after federal immigration officials admitted that, in 2013, they stopped the deportation of a gang member who is now the suspect in the February slayings of four people in Charlotte.

Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez was granted special immigration status two years ago, despite being listed in a federal database as a gang member.

At the time, Rangel-Hernandez was in removal proceedings that were stopped as a result. Earlier this year, the 19-year-old was charged with four counts of first-degree murder in connection with a three-day shooting spree that led to the death of one-time “America’s Next Top Model” contestant Mirjana Puhar.

The legislation introduced by Sens. Richard Burr, Thom Tillis and Grassley intends to clarify that members of criminal gangs are not eligible for the administration’s deferred action program that is granted to young immigrants. Instead, the senators said in a statement, such gang members should be placed in an expedited removal process.

The legislation would also require mandatory detention of gang members who are arrested by the Department of Homeland Security.

On Tuesday, DHS secretary Jeh Johnson testified before Congress that Rangel-Hernandez never should have received deferred action and that he was re-evaluating the review procedures to ensure similar cases don’t occur again.

Grassley said in a statement that the legislation is designed to improve public safety by blocking gang members from receiving immigration benefits and relief from removal.

“North Carolina is unfortunately all too familiar with the tragic consequences of the Obama administration’s failure to properly vet and subsequently deport known gang members who are in the country illegally,” Tillis said.

Added Burr: “The circumstances around this bill are incredibly sad – four are dead following this administration’s inability to enforce their own ill-conceived executive order. If the president can’t take steps to ensure that Americans are safe from criminal gang members, then Congress must take preventative action.”

Email: fordonez@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @francoordonez.

Prosecutors delay death penalty decision on Rangel-Hernandez, others

It will be May 28 before Mecklenburg prosecutors announce whether they’ll try Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez and three others as death-penalty cases.

Rangel-Hernandez, 19, is charged with four drug-related murders stemming from separate February shootings. David Lopez, 19, is charged with three of the killings, which were discovered Feb. 24 in a home about a mile north of uptown.

The other killing took place two days earlier outside of a Matthews motel. Along with Rangel-Hernandez, Edward Sanchez, 19, is charged with first-degree murder in this shooting. Emily Isaacs, 18, is accused of an accessory after the fact.

All four defendants are being held without bond. They were scheduled to be in Superior Court on Thursday when the district attorney’s office was scheduled to say whether any of the accused would be tried in so-called capital cases. Prosecutors asked Superior Court Judge Bob Bell for more time to prepare.

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