Illegal Aliens: Who Left the Door Open?

Despite all the talk of homeland security, sneaking into the U.S. is scandalously easy--and on the rise. Millions of illegal aliens will pour across the U.S.-Mexican border this year, many from countr

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Assuming he went as the INS promised, he didn't stay long. In September that year, he was arrested and convicted of theft and shoplifting in Wenatchee, Wash., under the name Manuel Martinez. Two months later, he was convicted of felony sales of marijuana and hashish in Los Angeles and sent to jail for 60 days. In March 1988 he was arrested in Los Angeles, once for robbery, once for possession of a controlled substance. Another possession arrest followed in April. In August he was arrested in Los Angeles for robbery. In December he was sent to prison in California for second-degree robbery and kidnapping. While there, he was treated for what was deemed to be "a significant psychiatric disorder."

In January 1992, after his release, the INS sent him back to Mexico by way of Nogales, Ariz. Six months later, he was back again, spotted by border-patrol officers as he attempted to come back into the U.S. near El Paso, Texas. When agents tried to stop him, he ran into rush-hour traffic on Interstate 10, "narrowly avoiding collision with several cars," according to immigration records. He subsequently was arrested, that time under the name Mateo Jimenez, and ordered to be returned to Mexico. It didn't stick. In November he was arrested by Portland, Ore., police for possession and delivery of a controlled substance. He never showed up for court appearances.

On two occasions in January 2002, border-patrol agents again apprehended him as he tried to re-enter the U.S. Both times they returned him to Mexico. If the border patrol's electronic fingerprint-identification system had been in synch with the FBI's, the agents would have discovered Batres-Martinez's extensive criminal record. Given his prior deportations, Batres-Martinez could have been charged with re-entry after deportation, a felony that carries a substantial prison sentence. In any event, Batres-Martinez told police in Klamath Falls that he entered the U.S. on Aug. 11, 2002, that time coming through New Mexico. He said he hopped a freight train for San Bernardino, Calif., and looked for work, without success, from Los Angeles to Stockton. When he heard that he might have better luck in Portland, he hopped another train but got mixed up in a freight yard and ended up in Klamath Falls.

To avoid the death penalty, Batres-Martinez pleaded guilty to the murder of Sister Helena Maria, attempted aggravated murder of Sister Mary Louise and rape of both nuns. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

As for U.S. immigration authorities, they were characteristically ineffectual. On Sept. 5, four days after the murder, the INS faxed an immigration detainer to the Klamath County jail, concerning Maximiliano Silerio Esparza, also known as Victor Batres-Martinez: "You are advised that the action below has been taken by the Immigration and Naturalization Service concerning the above-named inmate of your institution: Investigation has been initiated to determine whether this person is subject to removal from the United States."

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