Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ICE agent removed illegal alien during church service

On a Sunday morning in October, in a church sanctuary in Texas, an off-duty immigration agent tapped Jose Juan Hernandez on the shoulder and asked him to step outside. Hernandez, a 31-year-old illegal alien from Mexico who has already been deported three times, followed the agent and was promptly detained on suspicion of illegal re-entry after deportation.

Hernandez was detained and arrested October 26, pleaded guilty to the re-entry charge in February and is scheduled for sentencing in April. He remains in federal detention.

Yet his attorney, Rick Soliz, said he plans to file a complaint against the ICE agent in connection with the arrest. “I wonder what the agent was thinking, if he was thinking at all,” Soliz said. “How do you decide to do that in the middle of a religious service?”

ICE has defended the agent’s actions as fulfilling his “sworn duty to enforce the nation’s laws.” The agency has guidelines related to arrests “in sensitive community locations” which allow agents to make arrests at churches in specific circumstances.

Hernandez is expected to again be deported after he serves his sentence. Court records show he was convicted of a felony drug charge and deported in 2000. He was deported again in 2001. He was convicted for DWI in January 2004, and in October of that year, he was convicted of driving without a valid license. He was deported for a third time in 2004, according to ICE records.

Hernandez has been in the U.S. illegally since age 6.

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