U.S. Senator John McCain sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday demanding more information about why the immigrant suspect in Phoenix cop's death was released from custody in 2012.
Jesus Cabrera-Molina owns the green SUV from Sunday's hit-and-run collision that claimed the life of Phoenix Officer Daryl Raetz on Sunday, but hasn't been charged for causing Raetz's death. Cabrera-Molina's an illegal immigrant who'd been previously deported, returned, committed an unidentified crime, then was released from ICE custody after posting bond, according to a statement on Sunday by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.
In the letter to Napolitano, who oversees ICE operations, McCain asserts that Raetz was killed, at least in part, because of the "poor judgment of ICE officials."
McCain notes that Cabrera-Molina had been arrested on a DUI charge in 2009 and for providing liquor to a minor in 2009. He was deported in 2011 but returned to the United States and, for some reason, ended up in ICE custody. He was able to post a $5,000 bond that, according to ICE, was "granted by an immigration judge with the Department of Justice's Executive Office of Immigration Review."
McCain ties the released immigrant's suspected involvement in the homicide to the releasing of thousands of undocumented immigrants earlier this year by ICE, many of whom had criminal records. This type of crime was just what he'd been warning about since that mass release, McCain suggests.
The Republican senator and former presidential candidate wants to know if ICE shared information with the court about the suspect's prior criminal history before he was released, what led to his detention by ICE in 2012, what recommendations ICE made to Immigration Review about whether Cabrera-Molina was suitable for release, and whether ICE monitored his release in any way. The senator also wants to know why removal proceedings for an illegal immigrant with a criminal history have been "pending" for more than a year.
None of this can bring back Raetz, a 29-year-old officer with a wife and young daughter who'd worked for PPD for six years.
But the intersection of this tragedy and the nation's long-running debate on illegal immigration is ripe for exploitation by politicians and pundits, similar to the way the murder of Phoenix Officer Nick Erfle in 2007 became a symbol for potential change. Part of the debate, naturally, is to jump on the case of immigration officials who struggle to deal with millions of non-citizens and convoluted laws and procedures.
According to ICE's statement about Cabrera-Molina, the undocumented scofflaw "was ordered released from ICE custody in May 2012 after he posted the $5,000 bond granted by an immigration judge." If true, then McCain's accusation of "poor judgment" was premature. Yet criticism of ICE, like that of CPS, the IRS and other frustrating government agencies, is never too far off the mark.
But even if it turns out that ICE should have kept in the suspect in custody and had him deported, that doesn't mean anything would have turned out differently.
Jerry Cobb, spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, says speculation about such things falls into the realm of science-fiction.
Cobb made that statement in a different case: We had suggested in a February blog post that if County Attorney Bill Montgomery's office had thrown the book at arsonist and convicted felon Bryan Teague for recklessly shooting a gun at two guys even though he wasn't allowed to own a gun at all, a 5,220-acre wildfire on the Tonto National Forest that Teague caused by putting a 16-ounce propane tank in a campfire might have been averted.
Cobb told us that in Teague's case, "It is equally plausible that he would have committed the arson after serving an even longer prison term. Charging someone for a future crime is fine in the fictional world of "Minority Report," but it just doesn't work that way in real life."
Perhaps Cobb is right -- but we bet you won't hear Montgomery, a Republican, like McCain, or anyone else from his office making the same statement about Cabrera-Molina.
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All the answers are most definitely not in yet, but we're curious what you think: Did ICE help kill Phoenix officer Daryl Raetz, like McCain suggests?
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