Two undocumented immigrants from Mexico, each with criminal records and a long pattern of being deported and returning to the United States, will likely be deported again, after federal agents found them in Norwood and Batavia recently.
These two separate cases over the past month show how a crime that was once unusual here may be becoming more common.
"The significant criminal histories of the defendants in the cases you name show they posed a danger to our community, and merely deporting them has not deterred them from returning unlawfully to the United States," said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents secretly watched Luis Tapia, 25, at his Norwood apartment on April 25. They knew Tapia was here illegally from Mexico, he had been deported eight times before, and they had a warrant for his arrest and deportation, according to federal court documents.
Agents saw Tapia drive up to his home in a blue Jaguar. When they activated their emergency lights and sirens to stop him, Tapia sped away, driving through side streets in Norwood at more than 80 mph, according to court documents.
“While traveling on Beech Street at excess speed, Tapia traveled past Dorl Field,” an ICE agent wrote in a court affidavit. “I observed a large group of children playing at that park at the time. As Tapia approached the intersection … (he) failed to stop at the posted stop sign … officers then deactivated their emergency equipment and did not continue to follow Tapia, pursuant to ICE policy.”
Agents eventually arrested Tapia on July 11, and the case was unsealed in U.S. District Court on Aug. 25.
Tapia faces a felony charge of re-entry of a deported alien for returning to the United States after being deported eight times to Mexico since 2012 through Laredo, Hidalgo or Brownsville, Texas. Yet he kept returning to Cincinnati, where he has been convicted of several misdemeanors such as theft and domestic violence from 2010 to 2014, according to court documents.
In June ICE agents discovered another undocumented immigrant who had a long history of being deported.
ICE agents met Benjamin Campo-Hernandez on June 28 at the Clermont County Jail, where he was being held on one count of driving without a license. Agents discovered that he was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who had previously been deported six times and served jail time for illegal re-entry.
Immigration officials removed Campo-Hernandez from Arizona or California three times in 2010, and three additional times 2011 and 2012.
Campo-Hernandez was charged Tuesday with one count of re-entry of a removed alien.
Until recently, these cases had been rare in Cincinnati, and were usually only seen in regions close to the U.S. border with Mexico. These cases illustrate why deporting convicted felons, and preventing them from returning to the United States, may be harder than it seems.
“Just because he was caught five times, and this time is the sixth, doesn’t make it any harder for him to get across the border the next time,” said Ralph Kohnen, former chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Cincinnati who now works at Taft Stettinius & Hollister, in an earlier interview with WCPO.
In another similar case, Benjamin DeLeon Hernandez, 36, was sentenced in May to a year in prison after he was convicted of returning to the United States as a convicted felon after being deported five times before to Guatemala.
“What’s driving him back over here?" Kohnen wondered. "Family, a spouse, a girlfriend, a prospective job? Or is life in Guatemala so bad that he’s willing to take the risk to come back here and get caught?"
Benjamin DeLeon Hernandez is now facing his sixth deportation. He has been deported five times before – one each time from New Orleans and Mesa, Arizona, and three times from Houston. He kept returning to different regions from Memphis to Georgia, and most recently Cincinnati, where police arrested him on Nov. 19, 2016 for giving a false name to police.
While in the United States, Hernandez had been convicted of shoplifting, driving under the influence of alcohol, misusing a social security number and re-entry after deportation.
When Kohnen spoke to WCPO in January, he predicted President Donald Trump would push for more aggressive enforcement, quicker deportations and longer prison sentences for illegal immigrants.
Yet another case happened during a traffic stop in January. A Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputy pulled over and detained a driver – Dennis Flores-Carcamo -- who had been deported in 2011 to Honduras after serving a two-year prison term for trafficking heroin here.
The same day as Flores-Carcamo was arrested, Jan. 30, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley had hours before taken the stage at a packed news conference to announce Cincinnati as a “sanctuary city.”
But Flores-Carcamo was stopped in Columbia Township, which is policed by sheriff's deputies.
Cranley did not announce any new policy, but leaders vowed to make the region more welcoming for immigrants -- including at the county jail – as more than 60 religious and nonprofit leaders, immigration proponents and Democratic lawmakers applauded.
Noticeably absent from that news conference was Sheriff Jim Neil, who is also a Democrat. When WCPO contacted him afterward, Neil said the policies at the jail would remain the same.
There is no legal definition of a "sanctuary city," and the term has been used widely and loosely across the nation. But often, a sanctuary city is defined as an area that does not honor ICE detainer requests. People whom Cincinnati police officers and deputies arrest are typically processed through the Hamilton County jail.
If deputies are unable to identify a person in custody, they can contact ICE for help. Then ICE may request the county jail detain the person to await immigration hearings.
That’s apparently what happened to Flores-Carcamo.
Without a driver’s license to identify him, Flores-Carcamo was brought to the jail, where an ICE officer placed a detainer on him “as part of his routine assigned duties to interview suspected criminal aliens at the Hamilton County jail,” according to court documents.