México City, July 2, 1999
TEXAS HARDLINER SAYS WEAK INS MUST GET TOUGH
By NANCY CARR
The News Staff Reporter
WASHINGTON -- With alleged Mexican ''railroad killer'' Rafael Resendez-Ramirez still on the loose, presumably within the United States, Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep.-Texas, took aim Thursday at the Immigration and Naturalization Service's efforts to locate illegal aliens and return them to their country of origin.
''INS's strategy is a bright flashing sign that says to potential aliens: 'Come to the United States. Once you make it past Border Patrol, you are free,' '' Lamar said at a House hearing on immigration.
Lamar pointed out that the man the FBI is calling Resendez-Ramirez (he has at least 30 aliases, authorities say) was apprehended by the INS nine times in the past 18 months. He is accused of committing eight murders in the United States, four of them since he was released by the INS and returned to Mexico on June 2.
''You get nine get-out-of-jail free passes before you are deported,'' said Lamar, who said he wants the INS to increase its deportations.
In Santa Theresa Station, New Mexico, where Resendez-Ramirez was last apprehended, an illegal alien can be caught nine times before the INS starts the procedures for formal deportation.
The number of times an illegal alien can be apprehended before being formally deported is set by U.S. attorneys.
''In some U.S. attorney districts it's five times. In some it's nine. In some it's 14,'' Bergeron said. ''The agents (who apprehended Resendez-Ramirez) followed the normal procedure, which is to offer the individual voluntary return.''
Because of the high cost of formally deporting all apprehended illegal aliens, most are not charged with the federal crime of illegal entry, according to Russ Bergeron, director of media relations at INS. Instead, they are entered into the INS's fingerprint database of illegal aliens, IDENT, and allowed to return to their country voluntarily. Every year 1.5 million apprehensions and voluntary returns take place along the Mexico-U.S. border, according to Bergeron.
On Wednesday, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner called for an independent inquiry to answer questions such as why the IDENT system did not recognize Resendez-Ramirez as a convicted felon when he was processed. Meissner also instructed the INS to enter all non-citizens from the FBI's 10 most wanted list into the INDENT system. Resendez-Ramirez is one of four non-citizens on the list now.
Since June 8, the FBI has received more than 2,800 calls from people all over the United States who claim to have sighted Resendez-Ramirez, according to FBI special agent Al Tribble in Houston.
We are taking numerous calls and following them up,'' Tribble said. ''But unfortunately we have no hot leads.''