Report details immigration failures that led to Norwich murder

U.S. Immigration officials continued efforts to deport Jean Jacques, a violent criminal, to Haiti even after he was arrested a year ago for the murder of Casey Chadwick in Norwich, but as recently as February 2016 officials in his native country refused to accept Jacques because he lacked identification documents, according to a report released Monday.

It was the fourth time the country refused to allow Jacques to board a plane bound for the island nation he had fled by boat in 1992.

Details of the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement's failed efforts to deport Jacques are contained in a report released Monday by John Roth, Inspector for the Department of Homeland Security.

"This report confirms what we have long suspected," said a joint statement issued by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy and U.S. Representative Joe Courtney. "ICE could and should have done more to remove Jean Jacques from this country before he had the chance to brutally murder Casey Chadwick."

In a phone interview, Blumenthal called the report "a searing indictment of ICE" and said he would be "demanding specific steps to ensure swifter and surer deportation of known criminals and convicted felons."

The government's failure to deport Jacques after he served a 15-year prison sentence for attempted murder came to light after Jacques was charged with the June 15, 2015 stabbing death of 25-year-old Chadwick at her Norwich apartment. Jacques was convicted in New London Superior Court of murdering Chadwick and earlier this month was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

According to the Inspector General's report, Jacques signed an affidavit affirming he was a Haitian citizen and provided officials with contact information for his mother and other relatives in Haiti and the United States. He listed his place of birth and told the officials what school he had attended while growing up in Port-au-Prince.

His mother in Haiti claimed she had lost all of her children's identification documents, and because Haitian birth certificates are not public records, U.S. officials could not obtain them.

Immigration officials could have prevailed upon the U.S. Department of State to put pressure on Haiti by suspending visas for those traveling from Haiti to the United States, but decided not to, because they believed the State Department would only have taken action if Jacques committed acts of terror or human rights violations, according to the report.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision limits the amount of time that immigration officials can detain people without deporting them, and Jacques, who was held for a total of 205 days, was released into society.

They also could have monitored Jacques more closely, perhaps using GPS to track his movements, after releasing him, but because ICE had tens of thousands of people to supervise and felt there was no chance of deporting Jacques in the foreseeable future, they required only that he report to immigration offices at regular intervals. They ordered him to attempt to secure his own identification forms, according to the report.

The ICE officer who oversees deportations to Haiti told the Inspector General's office that the country has been cooperative, when compared to other countries, approving more than 95 percent of repatriation requests and responding to communications in a reasonable manner.

The report indicates the United States and Haiti have standard practices when dealing with repatriation of citizens, there are no written agreements outlining the process.

"The report provides the most comprehensive and detailed accounting for what happened in this case to date, and the findings are nothing short of alarming," said the statement from Blumenthal, Courtney and Murphy. "It is clear that more needs to be done to ensure that our nation is using every tool possible to secure the removal of dangerous individuals, evidenced by the inability of ICE to overcome Haiti's objections to Jacques' deportation. ICE lacks the framework for effective risk-based monitoring and supervision of released individuals like Jacques who have violent criminal pasts."

The senators and Courtney said they would continue to look for ways to address the "unacceptable failings" found in the report.

"The Chadwick family, the people of Norwich, and the people of Connecticut have our commitment that we will do everything in our power to ensure that the grievous errors that made possible the murder of one of our constituents can never happen again," the statement said.

Chadwick's mother, Wendy Hartling of Gales Ferry, has been working with New London attorney Chester Fairlie to reform immigration policy.

"The tragedy of Casey's death is not an isolated case and is occurring frighteningly often around the country," Hartling told a House oversight committee in April during a hearing on criminal aliens released by the Department of Homeland Security.

"Something has to be done to fix this horrible problem," she told the committee. "I would never want any family to have to go through this."

The Inspector General will continue investigating to determine whether deportation policy is cohesive and to identify factors that may hamper removal efforts, such as employee workloads, inadequate policy guidance and ICE's priorities for deporting individuals.

Blumenthal said he would be seeking action, rather than furthur investigation, including legislative changes if necessary.

"It's a story of abject and appalling failure to remove a deeply dangerous individual, convicted of a violent crime, before he killed again," he said of the Jacques report. "That is absolutely unacceptable and intolerable."

k.florin@theday.com

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