A Republican congressman claims that Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaletahim, 18, was working as an unpaid intern for Senator Robert Menendez and was not removed from the country after his visa expired until after the Nov 6. election in order to prevent negative publicity for the Senator.
Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz, chairman of a House oversight subcommittee on homeland defense, is inquiring why Sanchez was not arrested as soon as Homeland Security knew that he was a registered sex offender and living illegally and working in the U.S. for a sitting senator. “The Associated Press reported earlier this week that the department ordered immigration agents not to arrest Sanchez, an unpaid intern working for Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., until after Election Day.” The department denies this and claims that this order did not exist and standard procedures were followed. Some wonder if this news was hidden from the media because of Senator Mendez’s pro-immigration policies. He ended up winning reelection with a 58 percent vote.
Chaffetz, who brought the matter to the public’s attention, calls this situation “disturbing.” The Department of Homeland Security only answered questions in writing and have not commented about the case since. Authorities notified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in early October when they suspected that Sanchez was an undocumented worker. Because he does not have valid documents and is also a registered sex offender, he may be eligible for deportation. The agents notified members of the Homeland Security Department, which allegedly considered the arrest and instructed them to delay the arrest until after the election.
Sanchez was arrested on Dec. 6 in his home in New Jersey as two federal officials took him into custody. Sanchez has an expired visitor visa from Peru and is currently facing deportation. ICE has been heavily criticized for delaying the arrest of Sanchez in this case. There have been several similar delays of high profile arrests that could have taken place such as President Obama’s aunt, who had ignored an immigration judge’s order to leave the country. “ The Homeland Security Department imposed an unusual directive days before the election requiring high-level approval before federal agents nationwide could arrest fugitive immigrants including Zeituni Onyango, the half-sister of Obama’s late father.” ICE expressed concerns about “negative media or congressional interest” and the immigration order was lifted a few weeks later.
Some fear that the government will favor some immigrants over others depending on their connection with high officials, but despite the delay that may have occurred, Sanchez was arrested for having an expired visa. This is certainly a troubling story and one that we will continue to follow. Politicians should not be allowed to skirt the rules for people close to them.
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