Murder in Norwich tied to failed deportation policies

Jean Jacques came to the United States as an undocumented alien, probably by boat. Whether Border Patrol or Homeland Security vetted him is unknown. He made his way to Norwich. In 1996, he was accused of shooting two people, killing one and wounding another. A Connecticut court convicted him only of the attempted murder. The  judge sentenced him to 20 years. He served 17.

Shortly before his scheduled release on parole, Connecticut Corrections notified the Federal Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for automatic deportation. By law, he was supposed to be removed from this county. Instead, ICE held him for seven months and then released him. Jacques returned to Connecticut where he was soon picked up for a parole violation.

He was returned to Connecticut Corrections, which again transferred him to ICE for deportation. ICE released him, again. On a third occasion, the circumstance of which are less clear, ICE took Jacques into custody, only to release him a final time.

On June 15, 2015, in Norwich, Jacques stabbed Casey Chadwick to death. This past April 11, a jury found Jacques guilty of murder. Sentencing is set for June 6, almost certainly to life in a Connecticut prison.

The miscarriage of the deportation process contributed to the death of Casey Chadwick and caused grief and suffering for her family and friends. Connecticut will pay more than a million dollars to incarcerate Jacques. All of this would have been avoided had ICE deported Jacques.

It is not an isolated case. Across the country, there have been more than 6,000 immigrants who committed aggravated felonies and who should have been deported, but instead were released by ICE. There have been more than 120 murders committed by those immigrants. Murders by deportable aliens have occurred in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and many other states. There also have been large numbers of rapes and other serious crimes committed by the same population released by ICE.

Public Safety and justice cry out for reform. Deportation policy involves all three branches of federal government -- legislative, executive and judicial. Congress passed the law mandating that immigrants who commit certain aggravated felonies must be deported by ICE, usually at the conclusion of their state sentences. Congress has the authority to convene investigations to address how deportation laws are carried out to determine if further legislation or additional funding are needed.

ICE, under the executive branch, is charged with carrying out the deportation law. Now the nation’s largest police force, ICE’s duties include identification of someone who should be deported, apprehension, detention until deportation, and development of the necessary travel documents to return the person to his or her country of origin.

Travel documents must include the agreement of the country of origin to accept return of the deportee. The process of returning deportees is set out in repatriation treaties between the United States and the foreign country. If there is no treaty, deportation to that country cannot occur.

In the case of Jean Jacques, identification, apprehension and detention were all in place. Haiti had agreed to a repatriation treaty. Problems arose from the refusal of Haiti to agree that Jacques was Haitian. ICE knew of the importance of determining country of origin from the time of Jacques’ attempted murder conviction in 1996. Why ICE failed to confirm that Jacques was Haitian during the 19 intervening years is still unknown. An investigation now underway may answer that question.

A Judicial Branch ruling has added complexity to the deportation process. In Zadvyda vs. Davis (2001), the U.S. Supreme Court set limits on pre-deportation detention by ICE. The court pointed to ambiguous language in the law stating authorities “may detain” the deportee with no time limit stipulated. The court adopted a six-month period as the allowable detention time unless there was a reasonable prospect that the documentation could be obtained.

In Zadvyda, the court recognized the importance of clear congressional direction and invited Congress to enact further legislation to place its own limits on detention and to declare the detention mandatory when national security or public safety were involved. Congress failed to act. ICE was left with the court established six-month limitation of its detention authority. In deportation cases where the documentation could not be completed within six months, ICE began to release the intended deportees to the civilian population. ICE required the intended deportee to provide a current address for ICE so that contact could be made if deportation documents were completed.

ICE has not provided data on how many intended deportees it actually recalls for deportation. ICE released Jacques three times and never recalled him for deportation. ICE could have potentially extended Jacques’ detention period to protect safety. ICE did not attempt to do so.

After the murder of Casey Chadwick, requests were made to ICE to explain why it has repeatedly released Jacques. Newspapers reported that ICE initially declined to provide information citing a privacy right of Jacques. Fortunately, as a result of the coordinated efforts by Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy and Congressman Joseph Courtney, the Inspector General of Homeland Security ordered ICE to provide a full review of the processing and policies applied by ICE in the Jacques case. The report is pending.

Looking to the future, Congress needs to mandate the longer detention of immigrants who commit aggravated felonies involving national security or public safety. The legislation should repair the ambiguity of the “may detain” language.

Also necessary is greater transparency from ICE. Perhaps an ombudsman could be appointed to monitor individual public safety cases within ICE. With more information on the functions, decision making and processes of ICE, citizens and congressional representatives could better focus efforts on improving criminal alien deportations.

Our elected leaders must do all they can to prevent the type of tragedy that befell Casey Chadwick. Hopefully, an informed public can assist in this effort.

Chester Fairlie of New London is an advocate for the victim's mother, Wendy Hartling, and the attorney for the Estate of Casey Chadwick. He can be reached at fixdeportation@gmail.com.

 

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