Catch-process-release practice under scrutiny as some unauthorized immigrants return over and over
By Greg Moran
July 24, 2015 – 3:53 p.m. | Updated July 26, 2015 – 10:25 a.m.
SAN DIEGO — They found Ramon Gutierrez Perez just after 7 p.m., hiding in some brush in an area of Imperial Beach that Border Patrol agents call “Chicken Mans.”
It was the evening of March 7, and Gutierrez — who had tripped one of the hundreds of ground sensors that alert Border Patrol agents that someone is on the move — gave up quickly and without a struggle.
It was a routine the 52-year-old laborer from Guadalajara was familiar with. This was the ninth time since 1998 that Gutierrez had been arrested for illegally entering the country.
That’s not unusual for San Diego, where the downtown federal court each week is filled with scores of cases filed against immigrants who skirted fences, stuffed themselves into car trunks, or tromped through mountains and desert terrain all in an unsuccessful effort to illegally get into the U.S.
Many, like Gutierrez, have tried three, five, eight or more times.
The cycle of catch-process-release, sometimes but not always with criminal charges filed, has become the latest flash point in the immigration debate since the killing of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco on July 1. The shooter, Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, had several felony convictions and had been deported five times previously.
Steinle’s death has spurred a debate over “sanctuary” cities, like San Francisco, which cooperate little with federal immigration authorities. It’s also refocused attention on the prevalence of repeat immigration offenders, like Lopez and Gutierrez, who continually spin through the border security, immigration authorities and the courts.
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