WASHINGTON — A Republican congressman asked the Obama administration Friday why it delayed for weeks the arrest of a registered sex offender who was living illegally in the United States and working for a Democratic senator.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of a House oversight subcommittee on homeland defense, asked the Homeland Security Department whether politics played any role in the decision not to arrest Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaletahim, 18, until after the Nov. 6 election.
The Associated Press reported this week that the department ordered immigration agents not to arrest Sanchez, an unpaid intern working for Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., until after Election Day. The department said it did not order such a delay and said it followed standard procedures. Menendez advocates aggressively for pro-immigration policies and was re-elected in November with 58 percent of the vote.
Chaffetz's inquiry was the first from Capitol Hill on the matter. He called the situation "disturbing" in a letter dated Thursday to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Chaffetz asked that officials brief him and his staff by Jan. 3 and provide answers in writing.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Sanchez on Dec. 6 in front of his home in New Jersey, two federal officials said. Sanchez, who entered the country on a now-expired visitor visa from Peru, is facing deportation and remains in custody. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of Sanchez's immigration case. Menendez said his staff learned of this on Dec. 10 but he personally found out about the case through AP's reporting.