Former ICE chief counsel sentenced to prison for stealing identities of illegal immigrants

A former top U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorney has been sentenced to four years in prison in an identity theft case that victimized illegal immigrants facing deportation.

Raphael Sanchez, 44, ran up credit card and other bills totaling more than $190,000 in the names of his seven victims and carried out the scheme over a four-year period while serving as chief counsel of the ICE Seattle office, overseeing deportations in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

“Sanchez was entrusted with significant authority to represent the United States in crucial immigration proceedings that deeply shaped the lives of many,” prosecutors told the judge in court papers. “Sanchez abandoned the principles he swore to uphold and used his authority merely as a vehicle for personal profit.”

Sanchez, who earned $162,000 a year, agreed to the sentence as part of a plea deal in February in which he admitted guilt to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.

SEATTLE ICE ATTORNEY ADMITS TO STEALING IMMIGRANT IDS

“The career that was my life is gone,” Sanchez said at the sentencing Thursday in Seattle Federal Court, according to The Seattle Times.

His attorney said Sanchez “made choices that sabotaged everything good in his life” and stole money he didn’t really need to buy things he didn’t really want.

During a pre-sentence interview with court officials, Sanchez said he struggled with money problems, depression, fatigue and a failed relationship before launching into his scheme.

“It became a perfect storm that did not allow me to see the hurtfulness and wrongfulness of my actions,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

Immigration lawyer trying to reunite mother, child claims ICE agent shoved her

A Kansas City, Mo., lawyer claims an agent from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shoved her to the ground Tuesday morning while she was trying to reunite a 3-year-old boy with his Honduran mother before the mother and child were deported.

The lawyer, Andrea Martinez, told the Kansas City Star that the altercation outside ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations office in Kansas City left her with a fractured right foot, and a bloodied left ankle and knee. She added that the agent physically separated the boy, Noah, from her, the report said.

ICE released a statement to FOX 4, saying it takes the allegations “very seriously” and was looking into the matter.

Noah was previously separated from his mother, Kenia Bautistia-Mayorga, 23, while she spent more than a month in Platte County Jail in Missouri. Bautistia-Mayorga, an undocumented immigrant, is currently six months pregnant, according to the Star.

The baby’s father, Luis Alfredo Diaz Inestroza, also an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, looked after the boy while the mother was in jail.

On Tuesday, the father accompanied Noah to say goodbye before the mother and child were deported, but his status made him a target for detainment, Martinez told the Star. She said the ICE agent pulled the father and Noah inside the center office while she waited outside.

A few minutes later, she said she was allowed in the building. She said Noah and his mother were crying and hugging. The father was detained and sent to a central Missouri jail, where he was being held without bond.

Bautisa-Mayorga was reportedly taken into custody in February 2016 for illegally crossing the Texas border. A judge released her on her own recognizance but she did not attend the hearing.

Since then, Bautisa-Mayorga and her son have been living with Inestroza in Texas. They were detained after an officer pulled them over in May. Inestroza was told he had two months to leave the country.

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.

‘Ashamed’ Comey weighs calling himself Canadian, rips Trump border actions during Ireland visit

During a visit to Ireland, fired FBI Director James Comey said Friday that he was so ashamed of current U.S. immigration policies that he considered telling Irish customs officials that he was Canadian when he arrived.

Comey made the remark during a public interview in Dublin, the Irish Times reported

“I am ashamed of the way my country has acted with respect of those children. I am disgusted, I am horrified, I am embarrassed, I’m ashamed,” he said.

Comey, who is on a promotional tour for his book, “A Higher Loyalty,” arrived in Ireland with his wife this week.  

“My wife and I were joking, not really joking; we wanted to tell the people on the customs line coming here that we were Canadian. And we were joking but it’s funny because it reveals a truth: I’m ashamed.”

– Former FBI Director James Comey

“My wife and I were joking, not really joking; we wanted to tell the people on the customs line coming here that we were Canadian. And we were joking but it’s funny because it reveals a truth: I’m ashamed,” he said.

Comey blamed the U.S.-Mexico border crisis — in which scores of children were separated from their parents until President Donald Trump issued an executive order changing the policy — on political and economic conditions in Central America.

A day earlier, in an interview with the Guardian, Comey likened the detention centers for immigrants arriving in the U.S. to the Japanese internment camps during World II and the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.

Comey also told the Dublin crowd that his decision to reopen a case on Hillary Clinton’s alleged mishandling of emails just 11 days before the November 2016 presidential election was not motivated by politics. It was a decision many have blamed for her loss.  

The former FBI director also reiterated his criticism of President Trump, whom he said is “morally unqualified for office.”

Comey ended by expressing confidence that the country’s “democratic institutions” will withstand any political fervors.

“The rule of law is spine,” he said. “No president serves long enough to screw that up. Donald Trump, even if he were competent, he could not screw that up.” 

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.

Protesters taunt DHS boss Kirstjen Nielsen outside her home

A cabal of protesters gathered outside Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s Virginia townhouse Friday morning, blasting audio of crying immigrant children and chanting “No justice, no sleep.”

The small crowd of about two dozen protesters was led by CREDO Action, a progressive grassroots organization. Video posted to social media shows the protesters repeatedly yelling, “Shame!” as Nielsen leaves her home and enters a vehicle.

“History will remember you!” shouted one protester with a British accent. “You belong in the Hague! You’re a modern-day Nazi!”

Heidi Hess, the group’s co-director, called Nielsen a “child snatcher” in a statement. She said it’s important to “shine a spotlight” on the people responsible for what’s happening “on the border and detention centers.”

Some Democratic lawmakers lauded the protesters.

“Walking in @SecNielsen DC area neighborhood to remind her @ neighbors snatching from is wrong!” U.S. Rep. David Bowen of Wisconsin tweeted.

“Good morning @SecNielsen. Kids don’t sleep in peace. You don’t sleep in piece,”  tweeted David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

On Tuesday, Nielsen was chased out of a D.C.-area Mexican restaurant by another left-wing political activist group.

The group included an employee of the U.S. Department of Justice, Fox News reported.

Numerous protests have broken out across the country in reaction to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy in which people entering the U.S. illegally face being prosecuted.

More than 2,300 children were taken from their families since the policies’ enactment, but after public outcry, President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered that they be reunited. But the reversal led to only more confusion, as parents were left searching for their children.   

More protests and rallies are scheduled this weekend in Fort Worth, Texas, where the state’s Democratic convention is being held. More than two dozen congressional Democrats plan to visit detention facilities in McAllen and Los Fresnos.

Another protest is scheduled in Homestead, Fla.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough slams Trump and supporters as ‘openly racist’

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough took a shot at both President Trump and his supporters Friday, labeling both as “openly racist.”

The scathing comments during “Morning Joe,” which Scarborough co-hosts with Mika Brzezinski, came amid a highly controversial immigration debate over the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that led to children being separated from their parents after coming across the U.S. border.

Scarborough leveled that people “cannot say, ’Oh, I’m just supporting him because he’s giving them hell in Washington.’ No, he’s been openly racist, just like we said back in December of 2015, openly racist.

“And if you support him, then you’re supporting that, and you are that,” Scarborough continued. “It’s that simple. And that’s what we’ve come to now.”

CRYING MIGRANT GIRL ON TIME MAGAZINE COVER WAS NOT SEPARATED FROM MOTHER, FAMILY SAYS

The host shared similar remarks earlier in the show, following a discussion about the whereabouts of the seperated children.

“It’s unbelievable. And you know, the wretchedness of what Donald Trump has done here,” Scarborough said. “And I must add, those who are supporting Donald Trump blindly, claiming that sending young children … young children to places 2,000 miles away from where their parents are is like sending them to summer camp … the wretchedness of that. That mindset, the wretchedness, the depravity.

“You do wonder what actually has happened to people who speak like that in defense of a president,” he said, adding that he “deserves no defense. Certainly not in this case.”

TRUMP SAYS ‘RED WAVE’ NEEDED TO PASS IMMIGRATION BILL OVER ‘OBSTRUCTING DEMOCRATS’

Brzezinski said she thought Trump “will be forever remembered as the president who traumatized little children.”

“I mean, he has built up to this moment to the point where now he is the president of the United States of America who took our country on a collision course downhill, tearing at every seam, being the president who abused little children,” she said. “And you see in this White House a sinking ship.”

She further claimed that Trump changed course on immigration “because this is a massive PR failure” and the administration is concerned with “what it looks like.”

“It’s deranged, its abusive, its cruel, its evil and the entire world is watching,” she added.

Scarborough, a former GOP congressman from Florida, has not been shy in his recent criticisms of the Trump administration’s immigration policy. 

Speaking about White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ June 14 press briefing – in which she sparred with reporters over the separation of families attempting to cross the border – Scarborough accused Sanders of excessive lying.

“So why is she lying this much?” Scarborough asked. “I know children are being ripped from their mother’s arms, even while they’re being breast-fed. I know children are being marched away to showers, marched away to showers. Being told they are — just like the Nazis — said that they were taking people to the showers and then they never came back,” he said.

The White House said those remarks were “inflammatory and unacceptable.”

Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life.

So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for the United States.

Two months later, she sits in a federal prison south of Seattle. The boy, Abel Alexander, is in custody at a children’s home across the country in upstate New York. She has no idea when she might see him again.

“I still haven’t been able to talk to him,” Orantes told The Associated Press in Spanish as she wept through a telephone interview Monday from the prison. “The most difficult is not seeing him.”

Her story is emblematic of the 2,000 instances in which President Donald Trump’s administration has separated minors from their migrant parents in an effort to deter illegal immigration. The practice has provoked a national uproar fueled by stories of children being torn from their mothers’ arms and of parents being deported without their kids.

The administration adopted a new “zero tolerance” policy in April designed to curb a wave of Central American migrants who say they are fleeing violence at home. Homeland Security officials now refer all cases of illegal entry for prosecution.

Authorities say they are required to remove the children before they can prosecute the parents, but many parents, including Orantes, have remained separated from their children long after being convicted.

Trump has both applauded the practice and falsely blamed Democrats for it.

“We will not apologize for the job we do or for the job law enforcement does, for doing the job that the American people expect us to do,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told the National Sheriffs’ Association in New Orleans. “Illegal actions have and must have consequences. No more free passes, no more get-out-of-jail-free cards.”

The phone call that prompted Orantes’ monthlong journey to the U.S. border was no idle threat, she said. About three years ago, Abel’s uncle was kidnapped by extortionists and freed only after the family paid up, according to her attorney, Matt Adams, legal director of the Seattle-based Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

“When they don’t get their money, they kill people,” said Orantes, 26.

This time, the demand was more than they could muster. And they had only a week to pay, she said.

She and her son split from the boy’s father in Guatemala. He remains in hiding, and Orantes said she does not know where he is. Upon reaching the border, she and Abel found it impossible to apply for asylum at a port of entry, Adams said.

“A lot of people are showing up at the border to apply for asylum and are being told, ‘We don’t have capacity for them,'” Adams said. “It’s not like they can just stand in a line for several days, because then the Mexican officials will grab them and deport them. So they’re then forced to go through the ravine or the river.”

That’s what they did. The pair crossed illegally into Texas and immediately reported themselves to immigration authorities and requested asylum, Adams said.

They were separated so Orantes could be prosecuted.

The woman said she was moved to different detention facilities, including in Laredo, Texas, and placed among other desperate, crying mothers. At one point, officials brought Abel to her, she said.

“They told me, ‘Say bye to him because he’s being transferred.’ I asked where,” she recounted. “They just told me to say bye to him. … He just started crying, saying, ‘Don’t leave me, Mom.’

“I just said, ‘It’ll be OK.’ That’s all I said.”

Orantes was detained on May 22 with about 20 other people near Roma, Texas, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. She was convicted of the misdemeanor of unlawfully entering the U.S. and was sentenced to time served — a development she thought would reunify her with Abel.

Instead, with detention centers overflowing on the border, she became one of more than 1,600 detainees transferred by ICE to federal prisons.

She was sent June 6 to the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac, where she remains with more than 200 other border detainees, waiting to hear whether her asylum request will proceed. The conditions there are better than they were at the immigration jails, she said.

Before Trump’s policy changes, she likely would not have been prosecuted, but instead allowed to remain with her son and granted an interview to determine whether she had a credible fear of persecution or torture in her home country. If officials found that she did, she and Abel would probably have been released while their immigration case continued.

It was weeks before she learned her son’s whereabouts, she said. She has not spoken with him. Her attorney said she has no money and is not allowed to make collect calls to the facility in Kingston, New York, where he is held. The boy has been able to call her sister, Maria Orantes, who lives in Maryland and has petitioned for custody, without success.

“He doesn’t feel well there,” Maria Orantes said in a phone interview. “When he calls, he’s crying. He doesn’t want to be there.”

The Department of Health and Human Services, whose Office of Refugee Resettlement oversees the placement of migrant children separated from their families, did not immediately return an email seeking comment about why the boy had not been placed with his aunt.

Blanca Orantes said she had hoped to live with her sister.

“I wanted to work,” she said. “Raise my kid. Be a good person, get ahead, have some money and not hide. I thought it would be different.”

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Follow Gene Johnson at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle and Manuel Valdes at https://twitter.com/ByManuelValdes .

The list of celebrities upset by US border policy grows

Country music icon Willie Nelson has extended an offer to meet President Donald Trump at one of the detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border to better understand what’s happening, the latest attempt by a celebrity hoping to end the administration’s policy of separating families at border crossings.

John Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen, have donated and raised $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union. Ellen DeGeneres tweeted a link to groups fighting the policy. And Kate Walsh has pleaded with critics to call their senators and demand a change.

The separations stem from a policy that turns all cases of people trying to enter the country illegally over for criminal prosecution. President Donald Trump has defended the policy, which has taken nearly 2,000 immigrant children away from their parents.

Stars like Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Alyssa Milano, Mark Hamill, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Judd Apatow, Kumail Nanjiani, Piper Perabo and Common have all denounced the policy. Oprah Winfrey wrote to her 42.7 million followers: “Babies torn from their parents. Can’t stand it!”

The appeals from celebrities come a few weeks after reality TV star Kim Kardashian West visited the White House to press her case to pardon a woman serving a life sentence for drug offenses. Trump later did.

Nelson tweeted to the President on Monday, asking him to join him in a visit to the centers “to better understand what’s happening there.” Nelson’s publicist confirmed that the tweet came from the 85-year-old country singer, which was posted on his wife Annie’s Twitter account.

In a statement last week to Rolling Stone, Nelson was even more critical, saying, “Christians everywhere should be up in arms.” He cited lyrics from the song “Living in the Promiseland” from his 1986 album, “The Promiseland.”

Jennifer Nettles, another country artist, weighed in Tuesday, writing on Twitter: “Speaking of borders, I do believe loving people know that regardless of politics, there are some lines you do not cross. Protecting children seems to be one we can all agree on.”

Tony and Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner also added his voice to the effort, calling the policy “monstrous” and saying he is “shocked” to find America implementing it.

“I could never have imagined a moment when the federal government is involved in putting children in cages, separating them from their families, and really engaging in human rights violations of a criminal nature,” Kushner told The Associated Press on Monday night.

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Associated Press writer John Carucci contributed to this report.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits