“Senseless.” That’s how Texas attorney George Shaffer described the grisly murder committed by his client, an illegal alien. The same characterization could apply to the trial that neglected to uncover how and why Ernesto Esquivel-Garcia was allowed to remain on the streets to kill.
Though Esquivel-Garcia was convicted and sentenced to life in U.S. prison, local and federal agencies that enabled him got a free pass.
When Shaffer argued at the start of the trial that references to Esquivel-Garcia’s immigration status would have a “harmful effect,” the judge and prosecutors agreed. “This muzzled any discussion or revelation as to why a deportable convicted criminal was able to stay in the country long enough to kill an American citizen,” noted Todd Bensman of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Bensman called the mishandling of Esquivel-Garcia, who had been detained twice by authorities, “the most pivotal causal factor” in the slaying of 20-year-old Jared Vargas.
Esquivel-Garcia first came to the attention of ICE following a March 1, 2017, arrest on drunken driving and criminal mischief charges in San Antonio. Taking a plea bargain to a minor charge of obstructing a highway, he got off with 12 months probation.
This was enough, however, to trigger deportation proceedings, and ICE took him into custody the following month. But Esquivel-Garcia was released on a low bond, and a federal immigration judge didn’t get around to hearing his case until nearly 15 months later.
On May 21, 2018, just weeks before Vargas was murdered, the judge granted Esquivel-Garcia the opportunity to leave voluntarily by July 20, 2018. Wink, wink. “Voluntary Departure” effectively allows criminal aliens to disappear into the general population.
Meantime, ICE officers discovered another active criminal warrant for Esquivel-Garcia: He had failed to report to his probation officer or comply with any of the basic terms of probation. So ICE re-arrested him and turned him over to San Antonio police. On May 29, the police sent him back to ICE.
“Inexplicably, ICE didn’t hold and deport him on the spot. They certainly had the authority to do so,” Bensman said. “Which officials were making decisions and why is key to know.”
With neither ICE nor local police willing or able to hold him, Esquivel-Garcia was out again. Vargas was dead two weeks later.
While the immigration system’s failings weren’t on trial, the court’s willful blindness to those contributing effects can be viewed as legal negligence. “Why Esquivel-Garcia was not deported before he killed was an essential part of a whole truth that can serve the ends of justice. Isn’t that the point of a murder trial? This truth might well have identified repairable flaws in the immigration system, held public servants to account, and by those save other lives,” Bensman concludes.
Esquivel-Garcia remains on an ICE hold while in prison and faces deportation if he is granted parole. That removal would not be of the “voluntary” variety … or so we are assured.