Friday, August 17, 2007

Man who killed a 15-year-old girl by stepping on her throat until she stopped breathing was not a U.S. citizen and was in the country illegally

Associated Press:

Less than nine months before he allegedly killed a 15-year-old girl by stepping on her throat until she stopped breathing, Alejandro Rivera Gamboa pleaded guilty to drunken driving and disclosed that he was not a U.S. citizen.

Rivera Gamboa, 24, signed a plea agreement that read, in part: "I understand that if I am not a citizen of the United States, a criminal conviction could cause me to be deported, denied United States citizenship, or refused the right to re-enter the United States."

The document, obtained by The Oregonian newspaper, provides evidence that authorities had reason to suspect that Rivera Gamboa was in the U.S. illegally. But Rivera Gamboa was released without anyone notifying immigration authorities.

He and his cousin, Gilberto Javier Arellano Gamboa, are charged with aggravated murder in the death of Dani Countryman, a Texas girl strangled during a visit to Oregon late last month. The two also face charges of attempted rape and attempted sex-abuse.

Arellano Gamboa is also in the country illegally, but does not have a previous criminal record.

Oregon law prohibits local police from actively searching out illegal immigrants, but the rules change when foreigners land in jail. If local authorities find reason to believe the person is deportable, they may notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

But Mark Rasmussen, Clackamas County's top probation official, said his agency hasn't been referring misdemeanor offenders to immigration officials because they seem uninterested in low-level criminals.

"Our experience is that (ICE) doesn't do anything unless it's a felony and even then, it just depends," Rasmussen said.

Countryman's death, however, has some Oregon prosecutors taking another look at the way they handle suspects with questionable immigration status.

"There's been more illegal immigration and more illegal immigrants connected to crime," said Norm Frink, chief deputy district attorney in Multnomah County. "We're going to look at it and figure out if there's a different approach we could take."

In Clackamas County, where Countryman died, District Attorney John Foote said his prosecutors check immigration status on a case by case basis. He did not know how often such checks are done or how often federal authorities are notified, but said he is reassessing his office's policies and plans to have new guidelines in place this fall.

Lorie Dankers, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, said the agency's policy is to respond to calls from local law enforcement. Dankers said the immigration agency recently assigned agents to check jail rosters in southern Oregon and will eventually do routine checks in all of the state's county jails.

It's official: Our government is incapable of protecting its citizens from the criminal activities of illegal immigrants.

Culture of Drunk Driving


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