Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, lashed out at the Trump administration Tuesday for failing to send its top immigration official to Capitol Hill to talk about the cases of two alleged murderers in the country illegally.
McCaskill, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, criticized the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Thomas Homan, for not attending a hearing on criminals who came to the U.S. illegally.
She cited the case of Pablo Serrano-Vitorino, who’s accused of killing four people in Kansas City, Kan., and one in Montgomery County, Mo., in 2016.
He avoided deportation even after encounters with police and at least one notification that ICE didn’t pursue in time, including an arrest in a domestic violence case in 2015. At the time of that arrest, federal immigration officials didn’t respond within the prescribed four-hour time to word that he had immigrated to the U.S. illegally, and he was released after the standard six-hour holding period for domestic abuse suspects in Wyandotte County.
McCaskill wrote a letter and issued a news release Tuesday blasting ICE and Homan for not attending the committee’s hearing.
“ICE is the only agency capable of providing detailed answers and information about these cases,” she said in the news release. “(The agency’s) absence is creating a troubling pattern of administration officials continually dodging oversight requests from this committee — a pattern that cannot be allowed to continue.”
In 2003, Serrano-Vitorino was convicted for a terrorist threat in Los Angeles and sent to prison. He was deported to his native Mexico in April 2004.
In November 2014, after illegally re-entering the country, he was convicted of driving under the influence in Coffey County, Kan. ICE officials said later that an initial review of their records shows that they were never notified that he was fingerprinted at that time.
In March 2016, he was charged with barging into the home of his next-door neighbor in Kansas City, Kan., with an assault rifle and killing all four men in the house: Michael Capps, 41; Jeremy Waters, 36; and brothers Clint Harter, 27, and Austin Harter, 29.
Authorities contend he then fled to Montgomery County, Mo., and gunned down Randy J. Nordman, 49, of New Florence, Mo.
He faces potential death penalties in both Missouri and Kansas if convicted of the murders.
McCaskill’s letter to the ICE director also asks about the agency’s tracking of Gustavo Tapia Rodriguez, who’s been charged as the triggerman in the execution-style killing of a woman in Washington state late last year. He also was in the country illegally.
In both cases, the senator’s letter asks a series of questions about why ICE officials didn’t track or deport the men before their alleged crimes.
“My staff has repeatedly asked to see ICE’s case files related to the alleged murderers,” McCaskill said in her letter, “yet you have not allowed them that opportunity or provided a response detailing why the files cannot be disclosed.”
Her news release said the senator’s staff tried to contact Homan before issuing a formal invitation for him or a surrogate to attend the hearing scheduled for Wednesday. McCaskill’s release said Homan’s office cited “prior existing commitments” in declining to come.