Lawmaker seeks investigation into citizenship for murder suspect - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Lawmaker seeks investigation into citizenship for murder suspect

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

An immigration mistake uncovered by the Channel 4 I-Team has some Tennessee lawmakers poised to take action.

The Channel 4 I-Team found a man living in Middle Tennessee, who was granted United States citizenship even though he was accused of a double murder in Mexico.

Now, State Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, wants to know how that wanted man was able to slip through the cracks and wants to know if there are any other immigrants who have been able to do the same thing.

"There needs to be an investigation into how in the heck this happened," Carr said.

Carr said he plans to make a call to federal authorities and ask them to launch an investigation.

"I want to know how this happened, why it happened and is this an isolated incident? I hope that it is," Carr said.

Court documents show Avelino Cruz-Martinez has been living and working in Wilson County since 2007, and he even became an American citizen in 2010, although authorities in Mexico had already issued an arrest warrant for him in 2006.

A pair of witnesses there had come forward, claiming Cruz-Martinez shot and killed two men.

"What the I-Team uncovered is appalling, and I think it illustrates perfectly the concerns that I and so many of the people in Tennessee - Middle Tennessee - have," Carr said.

An official with the Department of Homeland Security would not agree to an on-camera interview, but he did say the agency does conduct international background checks before someone is granted citizenship.

If someone is wanted for a crime, they would not be granted citizenship until that person is tried in a court of law, the official said. Or, at least, that's the way the system is supposed to work.

It's unclear why that background check process did not turn up the warrant on Cruz-Martinez.

"We have a system of immigration laws that are not being enforced, that give the illusion that immigration laws are broken, when in fact we have a failure on the part of the federal government," Carr said.

Cruz-Martinez was arrested last month by federal authorities on that Mexican warrant and is currently being detained as he fights extradition.

His lawyer would not talk with us on camera but says his client didn't even know he was wanted in Mexico until he was arrested. He also claims the two witnesses who implicated Cruz-Martinez in the murders are not reliable.

State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, also said he was appalled by what the Channel 4 I-Team found and said he also vows to take action to find out how Cruz -Martinez was allowed to become an American citizen.

Cruz-Martinez will be in court next month as part of those extradition proceedings.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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