Mexican deported 7 times pleads not guilty to illegal re-entry
An illegal immigrant who has been arrested previously on drug and firearms charges and deported seven times Friday pleaded not guilty to illegally re-entering the United States.
Felipe Garcia-Morales, 28, a citizen of Mexico, entered the plea and agreed to be represented by a federal public defender.
Chattanooga police arrested Garcia-Morales for driving without a license July 14. He is also charged with violating federal probation in a previous case in Arizona.
U.S. Magistrate Susan Lee, with the assistance of a Spanish-speaking interpreter, ordered Garcia-Morales held without bond pending an Oct. 31 trial.
Records show Garcia-Morales was most recently deported March 3 to Mexico and previously forced to leave the United States on Sept. 27, 2004; April 15, 2004; Dec. 31, 2003; Oct. 4, 2003 and July 29, 2003. He was voluntarily deported Aug. 23, 2000.
Records show Garcia-Morales was convicted in September 2005 in Arizona on an illegal re-entry charge and sentenced to eight months in prison.
A year earlier he was arrested driving a 1989 Lincoln "loaded with concealed (smuggled) aliens" on Interstate 10 near Picaco, Ariz., records show.
"The defendant was suspected of being the actual alien smuggler in this case. Prosecution was declined on this matter by the U.S. Attorney's Office for alien smuggling charges and the defendant was ordered deported to Mexico," according to records.
Records also show Garcia-Morales was convicted of misdemeanor drug possession in Las Vegas in February 2000 and sentenced to 45 days as part of a plea agreement after he was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of an unregistered firearm and drawing a deadly weapon in a threatening manner.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Brooks said at the Friday hearing that if Garcia-Morales is convicted, the maximum possible penalty is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said the Chattanooga office in 2006 has processed about 110 illegal immigrants for deportation.
There are more than 500,000 "fugitive aliens" who have been deported by judges and either slipped back into the country or never left.
About 11 million illegal immigrants were living in the U.S. at the start of this year, compared with an estimated 8.5 million living in the country in January 2000, Homeland Security records show.
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