The teenagers accused of raping a ninth-grader at Rockville High School last week were among tens of thousands of young people who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in 2016.
Jose Montano was searching for his uncle; Henry Sanchez Milian, for his dad.
Traveling separately, each was apprehended by federal border agents and targeted for deportation proceedings.
But after a stint in federal custody, they were allowed to join their relatives in Maryland, two more individuals in a backlogged, secretive immigration system who would put down roots in this country long before their first day in court.
Last Thursday, Montano, 17, and Sanchez Milian, 18, allegedly took turns raping a 14-year-old girl in a high school bathroom. They have become the public face of an immigration debate raging in this country, fueled by President Trump’s rhetoric about “rapists” and “bad hombres.”
Critics have sharply questioned why the United States has admitted more than 150,000 unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, in the past three years, crowding immigration courts and public schools. This week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) called it a “kind of amnesty.”
But the Montgomery County schools superintendent and advocates said that politicians should not judge immigrant children seeking a better life for themselves by one disturbing case.
“The unaccompanied minors are overwhelmingly young people who are coming here fleeing horrific circumstances of violence in their countries,” said Kim Propeack, political director at Casa, the group formerly known as Casa de Maryland but which now operates in that state, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
A variety of U.S. government agencies have had contact with Montano and Sanchez Milian. Border agents held them first, and then, as the law requires, turned them over to an office at the Department of Health and Human Services, which sheltered them and apparently released them to their guardians in Maryland. The teens enrolled in public schools, which are required by federal law to admit them.
Border agents had given the teens notices to appear in immigration court. But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which initiates deportation proceedings in immigration courts, never filed charges against Sanchez Milian. ICE officials said Wednesday that the teen was not a priority for deportation because he had no criminal record and “no known gang affiliations.”
ICE officials would not comment on Montano’s deportation case because he is a minor, even though he has been charged as an adult in the rape case.
The teens have not entered a plea in the case. But Sanchez Milian’s defense attorney, Andrew Jezic, said Wednesday that he was not guilty and called the encounter “consensual.” Sanchez Milian had fled gang violence in Guatemala and was seeking a better life in the United States, Jezic said.Read More...
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