Schaumburg murder suspect's prior crimes deportable under new Trump policy
When Bulmaro Mejia-Maya, now a suspect in the slaying of Tiffany Thrasher of Schaumburg, pleaded guilty in 2013 to a charge of misdemeanor battery, he avoided the radar of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
At that time, the minor conviction was not enough to jeopardize the Mexican native's permanent resident status or enough for the government to revoke his valid green card, federal authorities said.
Today, that conviction would make him eligible for deportation.
When President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13768 in late February, it broadened Obama-era priorities of immigration agents targeting undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes to targeting all immigrants convicted of any offense, no matter how small.
"ICE will not exempt classes or categories of (removable) aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States," according to a fact sheet produced by the Department of Homeland Security ahead of the policy implementation that went into effect just three weeks ago.
ICE officials confirmed they have placed a "detainer" on Mejia-Maya since his arrest last week on charges he sexually assaulted and murdered Thrasher, his neighbor at a Schaumburg apartment complex. Police believe the killing happened sometime late April 14 or early April 15. Her body was discovered in her apartment shortly before noon on Easter Sunday.
Mejia-Maya was taken into custody without incident by Jacksonville, Florida, sheriff's police officers on Wednesday. He is awaiting extradition back to Illinois.
The detainer requires local law enforcement to notify ICE if someone accused of violating immigration laws is about to be released from police custody. That means if the murder case falls apart, the federal government could begin deportation proceedings against Mejia-Maya for his previous criminal conviction.
He is also currently wanted in Utah for failing to appear in court on drug charges, according to court records there. A conviction on those charges would also likely lead to deportation.
In the past, the battery conviction wouldn't have been enough to spark deportation proceedings, said Marilu Cabrera, a spokeswoman for the Chicago bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The agency handles all green card processing.
Cabrera also said that the 29-year-old Mejia-Maya's green card would not have been revoked if he had failed to renew it, a requirement every 10 years.
"Even if you failed to renew it, you're still considered a permanent resident," she said.
However, Cabrera would not provide information about Mejia-Maya's immigration or green card status, citing privacy laws.
Mejia-Maya had a valid green card in May 2012 when he was arrested on a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Volusia County, Florida. He was accused of stabbing an acquaintance during a drunken fight outside a house party. He spent 117 days in jail before released on a $5,000 bond, according to court records. He eventually pleaded guilty to the lesser misdemeanor charge and was sentenced to time served and fined.
When he was arrested last week, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking and arrest report doesn't indicate if he was identified through his green card, but legal experts in Jacksonville said a line in the report that reads, "Subject's Residence Status: Resident" likely means he was in the country legally.
But Dale Carson, a Jacksonville-area criminal defense attorney and former FBI agent, pointed out there isn't enough room on the form to type "Resident Alien."
Officials from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office did not respond to numerous requests for information about how they identified Mejia-Maya's legal status when they arrested him.