Considering one of his former unpaid interns was recently arrested for not just being an illegal immigrant but also a registered sex offender, it is probably safe to say that recently re-elected Democratic New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez is not having the best week. The Garden State Senator's office has spent the last day "pushing back hard" after the AP discovered the intern's arrest—which it appears the Department of Homeland Security put off until after the election.
Yesterday the AP revealed that on December 6th Immigration agents arrested Peruvian 18-year-old Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaleta, who not only was in the country illegally but also committed some kind of sexual offense (details are unclear as his juvenile records are sealed). While Sanchez now faces deportation, the news has sent the Senator's office into a spin zone. To start, yesterday they put out this statement:
Luis Sanchez was an unpaid college intern in our Newark office for approximately 2 months. No staff member responsible for managing the internship program had reason to believe, based on their interview process, that Sanchez had any criminal background or immigration issues. Clearly Mr. Sanchez sought to deceive our staff.
Upon notification from authorities of his arrest, Mr. Sanchez’s relationship with our office immediately ended. Senator Menendez was briefed on the situation today - and he is appalled. He has no tolerance for those who violate the law and expects the authorities to continue to prosecute the case.
And in a later interview with MSNBC, Menendez emphasized there was no way his office could have known about the intern's sex offender status as he was a juvenile.
Meanwhile, Menendez wasn't the only one unhappy with the AP's report. The Department of Homeland Security, which the AP says waited to arrest Sanchez until after the election, says that ICE "followed standard process in coordination with its federal partners and local prosecutors before taking appropriate enforcement action."
What makes the whole thing especially messy is that Menendez is deeply involved in efforts to overhaul immigration policy is the U.S. This case "does speak volumes about why we need comprehensive immigration reform," he told MSNBC last night. "I can't know who is here to pursue the American dream versus who is here to do it damage if I cannot get people to come forth out of the shadows, go through criminal background checks and then determine who is here to pursue the dream and make sure that those who are here and have criminal backgrounds ultimately get deported."