Errors, computer blamed for release of railroad killer : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Report blames errors, computer for release of alleged 'railroad killer' March 20, 2000 Web posted at: 5:23 PM EST (2223 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An inspector general blamed errors by poorly trained immigration agents and design flaws in their computerized lookout system Monday for the Border Patrol's release of a suspected "railroad killer" wanted by the FBI and state police.

The case created a firestorm of protest because the illegal alien, Angel Maturino Resendiz, also known as Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, allegedly murdered four more people in this country after the Immigration and Naturalization Service released him back to Mexico on June 2, 1999. When released, he was wanted by the FBI, Texas Rangers and Houston police for questioning about murders near rail lines in this country.

Since his surrender July 13, he has been charged with seven murders.

Acting Justice Department Inspector General Robert Ashbaugh recommended that the Immigration and Naturalization Service's computerized IDENT fingerprint and lookout system be linked "as soon as possible" with the FBI's computerized fingerprint and criminal history system. He noted, however, that the FBI did not convert from paper to computer records until a month after Resendiz's release.

Two weeks ago, the Justice Department announced a plan to link those databases but said it could take five years and substantially more than $200 million to complete.

The INS did not immediately comment on the report.

The inspector general's report put none of the blame on the INS Border Patrol agent who released Resendiz after he was apprehended in the desert near Santa Teresa, New Mexico "The agent did not know that Resendiz was wanted in connection with several murders, had been previously deported three times by the INS or had an extensive criminal record," because that information was not in IDENT, the report said.

The report said Houston police and Texas Rangers had contacted INS investigative and intelligence officers three times between January and March to obtain information about Resendiz and have a lookout posted for him. The FBI issued a federal warrant for him May 27.

"Yet, none of the INS investigators who were contacted by the law enforcement officers seeking Resendiz in early 1999 thought to have a lookout for him placed in IDENT," the report said. "One investigator apparently did nothing, and two other investigators referred the police to Customs Service employees to place a lookout for Resendiz."

The report said the Customs computer is used for lookouts at guarded border crossings, and Resendiz usually crossed the border in desolate areas. Even so, the lookout did not go on the Customs computer until Resendiz was put the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list June 21.

The report also criticized these immigration agents for not telling local police about IDENT and the databank's information about prior border crossings by Resendiz. Local police told the inspector general that data could have given them leads for their search.

"The inspector general's report reads like a description of a three-ring circus," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who said the House Judiciary immigration subcommittee he chairs is investigating this case and crimes by other deportable aliens who were released. "The public wants law enforcement, not the Keystone Kops."

The report criticized INS for training Border Patrol agents about IDENT, but not immigration investigative and intelligence agents. "Many INS employees ..., particularly those outside the Border Patrol, had little knowledge about IDENT," the report said. "And no IDENT training was provided to INS intelligence employees outside the Border Patrol."

An August 1998 memo to INS employees about IDENT lookout policies was not followed up with training, the report said. The inspector general also noted that he had criticized IDENT training in 1998 but that INS had "largely rejected" his recommendation for improving it.

The report also criticized the decision to put only new lookouts into IDENT, which was widely installed on the Southwest border in 1997. "This diminished IDENT's usefulness in identifying criminal aliens such as Resendiz, who had many convictions and deportations before IDENT was implemented," the report said.

Linking IDENT with the FBI's computerized system "is a critical step that should be accomplished as expeditiously as possible," the report concluded.

-- Martin Thompson (, March 20, 2000

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