By JIM DINO (Staff Writer)
Published: May 15, 2011
An illegal immigrant taken into custody after a traffic stop in Beaver Meadows on May 2 but released on orders from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had been arrested before the recent incident.
State Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, said she discovered the man was charged with harassment by state police at Hazleton in 2008.
Three years ago, Oswaldo Tlalmis-Perez, 27, of West Hazleton, was cited for harassment after he allegedly struck a woman in the face, giving her a bloody lip, during an argument at Sixth and Spruce streets, according to state police. After being struck, the woman left her vehicle and asked a passing motorist to call police. Tlalmis-Perez allegedly left the scene before officers arrived but was later charged.
Toohil said she discovered the 2008 incident on the advice of a constituent.
“I’ve had more than 50 calls and emails about this case,” said Toohil, who joined her colleague, state Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-122, in Beaver Meadows last week to say they will challenge ICE on why Tlalmis-Perez was released. “Some of the calls I received were from outside the district.”
When he was apprehended in Beaver Meadows earlier this month, Tlalmis-Perez, now 30, had in his possession two Access cards, which carry electronic food stamps used to buy food and other necessities.
“At first, the report said he had two Access cards from different states, but then I heard the cards were both from Pennsylvania, under different names,” Toohil said. “He also had $3,000 in cash. But ICE said his case was not a high-priority case. But this is obviously not someone who is contributing to society.”
In the days after the recent arrest, ICE Northeast Regional Communications Director Michael Gilhooly said “ICE has the pertinent information on the individual to follow up at a later time.”
“As the subject was not arrested and charged with a crime by the local department, did not have a criminal record and is not a fugitive from ICE, the subject was not a priority case and a detainer was not placed,” Gilhooly said.
However, the arrest from 2008 proves he did have a criminal record, Toohil said.
“When I checked his criminal history, it came back that he was arrested for assault …,” said Beaver Meadows police Chief Michael Morresi, who had Tlalmis-Perez in custody May 2 before ICE advised he be released. “When ICE said he had no criminal record, I laughed.”
Toohil said the system has failed.
“After finding that the illegal immigrant was charged with a crime in 2008, it further strengthens my position that we need to take a good hard look at both the welfare system in Pennsylvania and at immigration,” Toohil said. “The question we must ask is why are those people who are illegal and committing crimes able to live off of our welfare system and remain in our communities?”
The Beaver Meadows incident also has Congressman Lou Barletta up in arms.
When Barletta, R-11, was informed the man had been arrested before, he also blamed the federal immigration system.
“It’s clear that this illegal alien should not have been in the country long before he was stopped for speeding in Beaver Meadows (May 2),” Barletta said. “This report indicates police had contact with him in 2008, so he should have been detained, turned over to ICE, and deported almost three years ago.
“Instead, he was cut loose, and he continued to defraud the taxpayers through the use of his two Access cards,” he continued. “The more I hear about the case, the more troubling it becomes. I am pushing the director of ICE to explain his agency’s actions in this matter.”