Wendy Hartling got a frantic message through Facebook last year informing her that her daughter was inside a closet in her apartment — and that Hartling needed to call 911.
She did so, and though paramedics arrived, it wasn’t in time to save her daughter’s life. Just like that, 25-year-old Casey Chadwick was gone.
“I was so sad for so long, and still am very sad about not having my daughter with me. That guy shouldn’t even have been in the United States.”
It took police in Norwich, Connecticut, only a matter of hours to arrest the killer — a Haitian native named Jean Jacques, who stabbed Chadwick to death during a dispute over drugs. While Hartling was trying to cope with the shock of losing a child, she quickly got another jolt — Jacques was an illegal immigrant under deportation orders who never went home.
“I was so sad for so long, and still am very sad about not having my daughter with me,” Hartling said. “That guy shouldn’t even have been in the United States.”
The reason Jacques was in the county has everything to do with U.S. immigration policy and the failure of some countries to cooperate with efforts to deport criminals who entered the United States illegally. Jacques left Haiti by boat in 1992, arriving first in Cuba before making it to the American mainland.
Once in the United States, Jacques allegedly killed a man and injured the victim’s girlfriend. A jury acquitted him of murder but convicted him of attempted murder, and he spent 17 years in prison. When it came time to release him, state authorities handed him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to be deported.
That’s when they hit a snag. Haiti objected, claiming Jacques’ citizenship could not be proven. Hartling recalls the explanation with bitterness, noting that the defendant’s mother lived in Haiti.
Prior to Chadwick’s death, Hartling said she gave no thought at all to immigration. Now she is active in the Remembrance Project, a group of parents who have lost children to violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants.
As of June 20, there were 953,507 illegal immigrants who had been ordered deported but were still in the United States, according to ICE. All but 12,042 are not in custody. Those who remain free include 176,126 people who have been convicted of other criminal offenses.
“The majority of them are people who absconded from their immigration hearing,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies. “Part of it is the sheer volume of people. They can’t detain them all.”
It was eye-opening to learn such statistics, Hartling said.
[lz_table title=”Non-deported Immigrants” source=”Center for Immigration Studies”]Top countries with criminal non-deported aliens
“To find out how many there are is frightening,” she said.
Some of those immigrants with deportation orders are in the same category as Jacques — ordered to return to a country that won’t take them. ICE released 2,166 illegal immigrants from custody in fiscal year 2015 because their home countries refused to take them. ICE picked up Jacques three different times but cut him loose each time after U.S. authorities failed to persuade Haiti to take him back. Under a Supreme Court ruling in 2001, immigration authorities cannot hold an illegal immigrant for more than 30 days.
Critics contend that the U.S. government does not do everything in its power to make sure illegal immigrants like Jacques return home. An ICE inspector general’s report in June noted that the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations Division did not ask the State Department to intervene in the Jacques case. Officers also did not contact the Haitian consulate in Miami seeking a travel document for him, as the Haitian government suggested.
But outside experts contend that those efforts would have been futile and that the State Department is reluctant to pressure foreign governments in deportation cases.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the Department of Homeland Security lists 23 countries as “uncooperative” with U.S. deportation efforts and another 62 as having “strained” cooperation.
Critics of the Obama administration argue that a country as large and important as the United States has leverage over many of the countries that fail to cooperate — but that U.S. authorities rarely use it. They pointed to a case in 2001 when George W. Bush’s administration threatened to deny visas to allow Guyana’s government officials and their families to travel to the United States.
Guyana quickly backed down, agreeing to accept nearly all of the 112 convicted criminals the United States was trying to deport to the South American nation.
Vaughan said there are ways also to address the large number of non-deported illegal immigrants. One way, she said, is to remove the relatives of convicted criminals, and not just the convicts themselves. Allowing them to stay creates an incentive for deported criminals to return illegally.
“That’s definitely something that changed under the Obama administration,” she said. “The family became a shield.”
Hartling expressed hope for a change if Donald Trump wins the November election.
“Things are going to be changing, believe me,” she said. “I’m never going to let it go.”