(CNSNews.com) -- Court records show that Cristian Alexander Zamora, an illegal alien from El Salvador, was charged and fined for driving without a valid driver’s license in Texas in 2011– which was two years before he and an accomplice allegedly used a machete and a baseball bat to murder a 16-year-old Texas high school student.
Zamora, 22, and 19-year-old Ricardo Campos-Lara, also an illegal alien from El Salvador, are currently awaiting trial in federal court in Houston, for killing Klein Forest High School sophomore Josael Guevara in the Sam Houston National Forest.
“On Sept. 22, 2013, Zamora and Campos-Lara, both of El Salvador, allegedly aided and abetted each other in the murder by striking the victim with a bat and a machete,” says the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.
According to reports from The Houston Chronicle, Capt. Tim Whitecotton of the Walker County Sheriff's Office said both men were members of the notoriously violent Latin American gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.
More than two years before this brutal murder took place, Zamora was charged on July 25, 2011, in Walker County, Texas, for driving without a valid driver’s license. After pleading “no contest,” he was fined $136 and the case was closed, according to Walker County court records.
Now, in the wake of 16-year-old Josael Guevara’s murder, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has placed an immigration detainer on Zamora for being in the United States illegally.
Assistant U.S. District Attorney Mark Donnelly, who is prosecuting the case in federal court, confirmed that the detainer was brought up during Zamora’s detention hearing on July 1.
“In the detention hearing, it was relayed in court that there was an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer on [Zamora], alleging that he was unlawfully [in the United States] or in the country without authorization,” Donnelly said in a phone interview with CNSNews.com.
An immigration detainer is a notice that ICE issues to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies when they plan to assume custody of someone being held by that agency.
Once the local law enforcement agency no longer has a need to detain the person for breaking a local or state law, they are asked to hold the individual for an additional two business days so ICE can take him or her into custody for immigration proceedings. If ICE does not take custody of the person within that 2-day window, the person is released.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Greg Palmore also confirmed to CNSNews.com that ICE has issued detainers for both Zamora and Campos-Lara.
CNSNews.com asked Palmore if ICE had been contacted by any Texas law enforcement agency when Zamora was cited for driving without a valid driver’s license in 2011. Palmore did not comment.
According to a press release put out by the U.S. Department of Justice, Zamora was also known as “Pollo,” which means “Chicken,” and Campos-Lara was also known as “La Muerte,” which means “Death.”
The Guevara murder garnered quite a bit of local media attention from outlets including the Houston Chronicle and the local Fox affiliate in Houston, and was picked up by the Associated Press. But it has not been a focus of the national establishment media organizations.
The Pew Research Center has estimated that there were 11.7 million illegal aliens living in the United States as of 2012. While most are not violent offenders, current federal policy does not aim at deporting all illegal aliens who come in contact with local law enforcement or federal immigration-enforcement agencies.
In 2010, the Obama administration sued Arizona over the state’s Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, which allowed state and local law enforcement to arrest and detain a person if the arresting officer believed that the individual was in the United States illegally.
The law also allowed local law enforcement agencies to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws, if the officer had “probable cause” to suspect an immigration violation.
The Obama administration alleged that the state’s law was unconstitutional, claiming that “the state may not establish its own immigration policy or enforce state laws in a manner that interferes with the federal immigration laws. The Constitution and the federal immigration laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country.” (See Supreme Court Ruling.pdf)
The Supreme Court ultimately ruled against a large portion of the Arizona law, including the provision allowing law enforcement to arrest a person on suspicion of being an illegal alien.
The court upheld the regulation that said law enforcement officials could “make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status” of someone being detained for other offenses, but only if the officer had “reasonable suspicion” that the individual was in the United States illegally. However, the court ruled that detaining individuals determined to be illegal aliens was up to the federal government.
After the ruling, the Obama administration canceled agreements with some Arizona police departments that had allowed them to enforce federal immigration laws, CNN reported at the time. The Department of Justice also set up phone hotlines and an email address where members of the public could report violations of civil rights in connection with the law.
On June 17, 2011, former ICE Director John Morton issued a memorandum announcing ICE's policy of “prosecutorial discretion” in dealing with some illegal aliens. Morton stated that “ICE has limited resources to remove those illegal in the United States” and “must prioritize the use of its enforcement personnel, detention space, and removal assets to ensure that the aliens it removes represent, as much as reasonably possible, the agency’s enforcement priorities, namely the promotion of national security, border security, public safety, and the integrity of the immigration system.”
“Because the agency is confronted with more administrative violations than its resources can address, the agency must regularly exercise ‘prosecutorial discretion’ if it is to prioritize its efforts,” the memorandum continued.
Under this policy, “prosecutorial discretion” by the agency can include canceling detainers, canceling a Notice to Appear, granting deferred action, staying a removal order and “deciding whom to stop, question or arrest for an administrative violation.”
Court records show Campos-Lara waived his right to a detention hearing, a decision which his attorney, Thomas Berg, said is because of the immigration detainer issued for him, The Houston Chronicle reports. Zamora attended a detention hearing on July 1, where he was remanded to federal custody. Both Zamora and Campos-Lara are being held in the custody of U.S. Marshals.
CNSNews.com contacted the lawyers representing Campos-Lara and Zamora but the latter's attorney said he wouldnot comment on the case at this time and Campos-Lara's attorney was out of town, unavailable for comment.