Why an undocumented immigrant wasn’t deported, despite committing multiple crimes

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Even though her bus stop in North Chesterfield sits just steps from their home, Sara Soto never lets her 10-year-old daughter Meleny walk to or from the bus alone.

In fact, she doesn't ever let her kids outside by themselves.

"You gotta be with your kids at all times in these apartments," Soto said.

That's because of an incident in late October, when Soto said a man attacked her daughter.

"He was standing right there when he grabbed her," Soto said.

Sara Soto and Meleny

It happened while Soto and Meleny were walking to the store.

Meleny was a few steps ahead of her mother, and after rounding the corner she said she was approached by the suspect.

"His zipper was down. He said where was I going. I was just walking, and he grabbed me," the 10-year-old said.

"I was like why are you crying? ‘That guy. That guy grabbed me. He had his thing out.’ Like what are you talking about his thing? His thing! I was like oh my God," Soto said.

The girl was able to run away, but Soto said the man followed them home and was carrying a machete.

"What did he kept on saying? Punta, yeah something about the b****, come out *****,” Soto recalled.

She called police and officers arrested Erick Reyes and charged him with several felonies.

Erick Reyes

Once booked, Chesterfield Sheriff Karl Leonard said he learned Reyes was an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador. An immigration judge had even ordered he be deported in October of 2000, but Leonard said the feds ultimately allowed Reyes to stay.

"That was a temporary protected status he was granted to prevent him from being deported," Leonard said. "Eventually he was released and back into the community."

The Department of Homeland Security created the TPS program to help people from countries dealing with wars, environmental disasters and epidemics.

The CBS 6 Problem Solvers learned a person may lose their TPS if they commit two or more misdemeanors or a felony.

But that did not happen to Reyes, even though the feds told CBS 6 that he has committed three misdemeanor crimes since 2006.

"It does become frustrating because you would think if he was deported back when the original order was entered 17 years ago, then this never would have happened," Leonard.

Chesterfield Sheriff Karl Leonard

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told us Reyes' misdemeanors have "now rendered him amenable to removal," but Soto wonders why he wasn't deported before.

"The cops arrest them, and they let them back out. Like, I mean, why can't they just give them to ICE? I mean why would they let them back out?" Soto asked.

Leonard said Sheriffs are obligated by law to let undocumented immigrants go once they have served their sentence.

He said he alerts the feds to every undocumented immigrant in his jail, and it is up to them to pick them up, but they rarely do, even as President Donald Trump touts a tougher stance on immigration.

"No, we're not seeing it. We haven't seen any increased action over the last year," Leonard said.

Sara Soto and Meleny

Now, Soto is hoping for justice form the local court and the federal government.

"I'm not saying, oh you got stopped and you're illegal go to jail, or go back to your country, no, I'm saying you had a knife, you tried to get somebody, molested somebody, big crimes, then yeah you should be deported," Soto said.

Sheriff Leonard said that of the 408 undocumented immigrants in the Chesterfield jail since 2014, just 41 have been picked up by the feds.

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