An illegal immigrant accused of rape and apprehended by immigration officials in the Charlotte, N.C., area earlier this month by was released at the border as part of a family unit in 2016 before allegedly removing his GPS ankle monitor.
As previously reported at Conservative Review, federal agents arrested fugitive and repeat immigration violator Oscar Pacheco-Leonardo — a 33-year-old Honduran national — “during a targeted enforcement operation in Mecklenburg County” earlier this month.
Pacheco-Leonardo’s apprehension happened “nearly two months after the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office refused to honor an ICE detainer, or even notify ICE of the release, and instead released [Pacheco-Leonardo] from local criminal custody following his arrest on first-degree rape and indecent liberties with a minor charges.”
An ICE official says that the suspect entered the country as part of a family unit and was released into the U.S. interior.
“June 12, 2016 he is encountered by Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley with a child as a family unit,” an ICE official told Blaze Media. “The next day, he was released on a GPS monitoring device with a report date of June 22 to check in at the Charlotte ICE office. On June 16, we got an alert that he cut off the bracelet in Mecklenburg County. He has been an ICE fugitive until he was apprehended almost three years later.”
A federal indictment filed last week and obtained by Blaze Media says that Leonardo Pacheco “did unlawfully willingly and knowingly injure and commit certain depredations against property of the United States, that is, a GPS monitoring device” in June 2016 “thereby causing damage in excess of one thousand dollars ($1,000).”
Based on the timeline of events, it appears that the suspect benefited from a court-manufactured catch-and-release policy that has proven to be one of the key driving factors of the current border crisis: The Flores settlement.
The Flores settlement was originally reached in 1997, modified in 2001, and stipulated that immigration officials could only house unaccompanied alien children in “non-secure, state licensed” facilities or release them. In 2015, a federal judge expanded the meaning of the settlement to children accompanied by a parent as well, thereby creating the 20-day catch-and-release time limit currently driving the southern border crisis. It was upheld by the Ninth Circuit a year later.
Leonardo Pacheco’s release would have been after the 2015 Flores expansion ruling.
The expanded Flores ruling has been manipulated by unscrupulous border-crossers who have been using children as “get out of jail free” cards in order to avoid detention. In some cases, children have reportedly been “recycled” by traffickers, while many have been kidnapped. In others, migrants have reportedly attempted to purchase children to make the journey.
Last week, the Trump administration announced a regulation to address the Flores “loophole” with a new rule eliminating the current time limit and setting standards for centers where family units are to await trial together.
“Today the Administration is closing one of the legal loopholes that has allowed human traffickers and smugglers to exploit our vulnerabilities at the southern border,” a senior administration official told Blaze Media at the time of the announcement. “President Trump has made it clear that he’s going to secure America’s border at all cost and this rule plays a vital role in the strategy to restore the integrity to our immigration system and our national security.”