A 19-year-old illegal immigrant charged with killing a former "America's Next Top Model" contestant and three others in North Carolina last month was spared deportation after being approved for President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, two Senate Republicans said Friday.
Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez was put into deportation proceedings after authorities arrested him in March 2012 for alleged possession of marijuana, according to information released by two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa
and Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
Rangel-Hernandez's hearings were dismissed in December 2013 after his DACA application
was approved, the senators said in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
In addition, "whistleblowers," the senators said, told them that officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services granted Rangel-Hernandez's deferral with the "full knowledge that he was a known gang member."
"This raises serious concerns about USCIS' review and approval of other DACA applicants and points to potential vulnerabilities in the system," Grassley and Tillis said.
Rangel-Hernandez is charged with first-degree murder in the Feb. 24 triple homicide of the former contestant, Mirjana Puhar, 19, and two other people, Jonathan Cosme Alvarado and Jusmar Isiah Gonzaga-Garcia, both 23, The Charlotte Observer reports.
Rangel-Hernandez is also accused of fatally shooting Rosool Jaleel Harrell, 22, in a suburban hotel parking lot. The deaths all occurred in Mecklenberg County.
Police think that all of the deaths were drug-related and that Rangel knew everyone he is charged with killing, according to the Observer.
Two other Charlotte residents, a 19-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman, were being held in Texas on charges stemming from the deaths.
USCIS administers the DACA program, which Obama created in 2012 to spare the deportation for two years of many illegals who were brought to the United States as children.
Obama extended the program for two more years in 2014 — and broadened the deportation delays to three years under the executive orders he announced in November.
Those orders have been halted pending a hearing later this month on a lawsuit brought by Texas and 23 other states challenging the amnesty actions.
Grassley originally queried Johnson on Rangel-Hernandez's status in February, but had received no response.
In their letter on Friday, Grassley and Tillis asked Johnson to disclose information on how many illegals had been granted deferrals under DACA and what steps the agency was taking to prevent gang members and others with criminal records from being approved under the program.
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