The man charged in the murder of America’s Next Top Model contestant Mirjana Puhar should have been deported rather than granted amnesty because of his known gang connections, U.S. immigration officials have conceded.
Puhar, 19, was a runner-up in the 21st installment of the reality show, which aired last year. The suspect in her murder is also 19.
According to the U.S. government, the suspect, an illegal immigrant, was a gang member who should have been deemed ineligible for a work permit under President Obama’s 2012 amnesty executive order, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
In June of 2012, President Obama on his own authority suspended the deportation under the DACA program of about one million undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. These immigrants are often referred to as “DREAMers” after the DREAM Act that was never voted into law by Congress. Known gang members are not eligible for the DACA amnesty, however.
The suspect allegedly fatally shot Puhar and three others in Charlotte, North Carolina, in February of 2015, and is facing first-degree murder charges. Cops reportedly believe the crime may have been drug related.
U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with other lawmakers, previously pressed Homeland Security officials to disclose the suspect’s immigration status and whether he was allowed to stay in the U.S. under the DACA program.
In a letter to Grassley, DHS official Leon Rodriguez admitted that the suspect — who had been busted for marijuana possession in 2012 — was on track for deportation if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) authorities had been properly on top of the situation.
“Based on ICE records, there is no indication that ICE was aware at the time of the arrest that the individual was a gang member. His request for deferred action was approved on August 26, 2013, notwithstanding a TECS [federal crime database] record indicating that he was a known gang member, and his application for employment authorization was approved … Based on standard procedures and protocols in place at the time, the DACA request and related employment authorization should not have been approved… Given the fact that the individual was identified as a known gang member, his request should have been denied by the adjudicator…”
Rodriguez also told Grassley that immigration officials will get more training about how to flag applications that come from known street gang members and others in the crime orbit who are meant to be disqualified from DACA.
Out of almost 900,000 DACA applications approved so far, federal statistics indicated that a comparative handful have been rejected for gang affiliation reasons.
“DHS claims that 282 applicants had their DACA applications rejected for suspected gang or other criminal activity, but that’s only a guesstimate because, inexplicably, they don’t keep electronic records of the reason for rejecting each application,” HotAir.com observed.
Separately, according to the Washington Times, overall deportations have dropped 25 percent this year so far and have decreased 41 percent over the past year years. The number of illegal alien felons removed from the country has also decreased by 30 percent in 2015.
Reacting to how the Obama administration handled the Mirjana Puhar murder suspect’s immigration file, Sen. Grassley expressed concern that government bureaucrats are rubber-stamping DACA applications at the risk to the public.
“This statement by USCIS confirms what we have feared – that USCIS is not doing a thorough job reviewing the individuals who it allows to stay in this country under the President’s deferred action program. It’s no secret that USCIS staff is under intense pressure to approve every DACA application that comes across their desk, and based on this information, it’s clear that adequate protocols are not in place to protect public safety. The fact is that this tragedy could have been avoided if the agency had a zero tolerance policy with regard to criminal aliens and gang members.”
Added Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), “The flawed implementation of the President’s blanket deferred action program has created a loophole that allows dangerous criminals who came here illegally — even known gang members — to stay in the country. The USCIS needs to immediately start performing detailed criminal background checks to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.”
[Mirjana Puhar Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images Entertainment]