A Call for ICE Transparency in a Deeply Disturbing Case

By Dan Cadman on March 3, 2017

The Daily Caller is reporting on a disturbing case that emanated in the Kansas City area in March 2016, when a previously deported criminal alien is alleged to have killed four individuals and, in fleeing from that offense, killed a fifth individual when trying to steal his car keys.

At a recent Senate hearing, the widow of the fifth victim appeared to testify at the request of Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. According to the Daily Caller, she stated, "Not only has ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) failed us, our borders have failed us." That may be a fair assessment, if the facts are as alleged.

Apparently the suspect, Pablo Antonio Serrano-Vitorino, illegally reentered the country at an unknown date after having been removed in 2004. He was arrested and charged with domestic battery in Kansas City, Kan., in 2015, where he pled guilty and paid a fine. It's alleged that ICE agents failed to pick him up on that occasion, leaving him free to eventually commit the homicides the following year.

I took the time to check our sanctuary cities map, to see if the reason for this failure to take him into custody was because Kansas City, or Wyandotte County in which it sits, are sanctuary jurisdictions. They are not. Paying a fine for the domestic battery suggests that it was treated as a misdemeanor, which may have put Serrano-Vitorino into the "non-priority" category under the prior administration's absurd Priority Enforcement Program (since rescinded by the Trump administration). Even so, the fact of having reentered the United States illegally (a federal felony) should have kicked the priority up several notches.

What's more, it's worth noting that conviction of domestic violence is, in and of itself, a deportable violation even when a misdemeanor. (See Section 237(a)(2)(E)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.) Given the frequency with which small acts of domestic violence escalate to murder, it's my own take that this provision should be invoked any and every time a conviction occurs that ICE becomes aware of.

But were ICE agents aware? I know from personal experience that, as late as 2011, many Kansas police agencies were still submitting ink-and-paper fingerprint cards of arrestees to the state identification bureau. It was only there, days or weeks afterward, that the cards were digitally scanned and electronically forwarded to the FBI for comparison and cataloguing. What this means is that there would have been no match against Homeland Security digital fingerprints until that occurred. If that is still the case, ICE agents would not have known of the violation until Serano-Vitorino was long gone.

McCaskill excoriated ICE at the hearing, on two counts:

First, because no one from the agency showed up to testify. In my view, that was a mistake — doubly so given the personal importance the president has attached to acknowledging the victims of alien crime.

Second, because ICE, allegedly citing privacy concerns, has refused to release file materials to the Senate for review so that they may determine what happened in the case. This, too, seems like a serious mistake. The Daily Caller indicates that McCaskill asserted that such concerns "fl[y] in the face" of a recent executive order (EO). She is right; Section 14 of the EO "Enhancing public safety in the interior of the United States" directs agencies to hew to the letter of the Privacy Act, which specifically excludes all but U.S. citizens and resident aliens from its coverage. What's more, Section 13 of the same EO directs the establishment in ICE of an "Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens", and so the ICE refusal to provide file materials, if it is true, seems especially inappropriate.

Having said all of this, I think it's also fair to examine McCaskill's record on immigration matters. It's not particularly sterling, as these things go. NumbersUSA assigns her an overall score of D-, based on her voting record in several discrete categories.

I might not go so far as to use the phrase "grandstanding" to describe her outrage in this matter; I'm sure it's genuine. But perhaps it is time for Sen. McCaskill to connect the dots and recognize that she cannot on the one hand continue to support amnesty and unbridled immigration to the United States, and on the other lash an agency that has been eviscerated and treated as a hand puppet by an administration of her party for the past eight years. Cause and effect, senator, cause and effect.