Thousands of inmates admit they're in the U.S. illegally, but even those convicted of violent crimes are often released right back onto Houston's streets
A review of thousands of criminal and immigration records shows that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials didn't file the paperwork to detain roughly 75 percent of the more than 3,500 inmates who told jailers during the booking process that they were in the U.S. illegally.
Although most of the inmates released from custody were accused of minor crimes, hundreds of convicted felons — including child molesters, rapists and drug dealers — also managed to avoid deportation after serving time in Harris County's jails, according to the Chronicle review, which was based on documents filed over a period of eight months starting in June 2007, the earliest immigration records available.
Miguel Mejia Rodriguez, 36, is locked up on the fifth floor of the San Jacinto Jail downtown, accused of raping and sodomizing a second-grader.
It is the fourth time in 12 years that Rodriguez, an unemployed drifter from Zacatecas, Mexico, has landed in Harris County Jail. Over the years, Rodriguez has served time for drug possession, theft, trespassing and indecent exposure. He told jailers he was in the country illegally in December 2006, after a security guard caught him touching himself in an apartment complex parking lot, records show.
But ICE officials did not file paperwork to detain Rodriguez. He was released after serving his 25-day sentence.
"I never lied about who I am, or where I'm from. I'm 100 percent Mexican," Rodriguez said in a jail interview with the Chronicle in September, after he was accused of the rape and sodomy of a 7-year-old.
Katherine Anne Bridges, deaf and mute, was just 19 in the fall of 2004 when she told Harris County authorities that Jeremias Fuentes, her boyfriend, tried to grab their 6-month-old baby boy from her arms and kicked her in the face. He hid her emergency phone so she couldn't call for help. Fuentes was sentenced to 20 days in jail.
...Bridges' body had been found facedown in the bedroom closet of her southwest Houston apartment complex. She had blood in her brown hair and a dozen stab wounds on her face, neck, chest and back. A knife rested on the baby crib.
Of course, one can hope this was just incompetence and/or mismanagement,
Races in Harris County, Texas:
- White Non-Hispanic (42.1%)
- Hispanic (32.9%)
- Black (18.5%)
- Other race (14.2%)
- Two or more races (3.0%)
- Vietnamese (1.6%)
- Asian Indian (1.1%)
- Chinese (1.0%)
- American Indian (0.8%)
- Other Asian (0.6%)
But then, you never know...