Two aliens unlawfully present in the United States are reported to have been arrested in connection with a mass shooting plot in Richmond, Va. The details are sketchy, but the main question is how and why the duo were in the United States to begin with.
According to earlier reports, Richmond police received information about the plot, which allegedly targeted July 4th celebrations in the city’s Dogwood Dell, from a “hero citizen” who overheard a conversation about the proposed plans and contacted the authorities.
Officers quickly investigated, according to Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith, and seized two assault-style rifles, a handgun, and more than 200 rounds of ammunition from a house on Columbia Street in the south side of town near the James River.
In the chief’s words: “Once inside that residence, [police] saw evidence in plain view that corroborated the hero citizen’s statement that there was a concern.”
The two suspects are identified as 52-year-old Julio Alvarado-Dubon and 38-year-old Rolman Balacarcel. As noted, both are described as aliens illegally present in the United States, and each is facing firearms charges. Alvarado was arrested at the Columbia Street residence (which he occupied) on July 1, while Balacarcel — who had been under surveillance — was taken into custody on July 5.
Federal law limits certain aliens’ ability to possess guns. It is a crime to sell or otherwise dispose of a firearm or ammunition to an illegal alien, and also unlawful for an illegal alien to possess a firearm or ammunition. Both offenses are punishable by up to 10 years’ confinement, though higher penalties are possible based upon the offense.
When questioned about reports that at least one of the suspects had been removed and serially reentered, Chief Smith described it as “frustrating” that a person could repeatedly break the law and still have the opportunity to plan mass murder.
As noted above, details are sketchy and developing and it is unclear how the duo obtained the weapons in question, assuming that the press reports are correct.
A more basic question is why, if Alvarado-Dubon and Balacarcel were aliens in the United States illegally, they were here to begin with? Unfortunately, that one is easier to answer. Immigration enforcement “guidelines” issued by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in September limit the class of removable aliens whom ICE officers are allowed to question, arrest, detain, and remove.
While those guidelines are not as restrictive as two prior Biden administration (non-)enforcement memos, just three classes of aliens are “priorities” for ICE enforcement under Mayorkas’ latest iteration: Terrorists and spies (“threats to national security”); aliens who entered illegally on or after November 1, 2020 (“threats to border security”); and aliens who pose a danger to the community, usually due to “serious criminal activity” (“threats to public safety”).
Even if an alien falls within these the public safety priority, however, ICE officers must consider whether one or more irrelevant “mitigating” factors applies before they take enforcement action.
Those mitigating factors include whether the alien is young or old; the time that has elapsed since the alien’s conviction (and whether that conviction was vacated or expunged); the alien’s length of presence in the United States; and whether the alien has a mental disability, was a victim of a crime, is eligible for protection or relief, or served, or has an immediate relative who served in the military or government.
That’s not to say that ICE officers must take a “hands off” approach to other removable aliens, although as a recent district court decision explains, the number of criminal aliens DHS has detained has plummeted since Biden took office, as has the total number of aliens removed from the United States.
That’s not surprisingly, given that the Mayorkas guidance warns: “The fact an individual is a removable [alien] should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them.”
If either or both of the suspects in the Richmond case were simply here illegally, or simply had “minor” convictions, ICE officers under the Mayorkas guidance would likely have left them alone, even if they were serial illegal reentrants or if their “minor” crimes were removable offenses.
Mayorkas defended his non-enforcement posture by contending, “Justice and our country's well-being require it.”
The reports out of Richmond are preliminary and incomplete, but if they are correct and two illegal aliens were allowed to repeatedly violate the immigration laws, gain access to firearms, and plan a mass shooting, justice has been ill-served, and our country’s well-being diminished. The police chief is not the only one who is frustrated.