Jose Valdez-Santana, 46, an illegal alien from Mexico, was sentenced yesterday by Senior U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola, Jr. to 15 months in federal prison, followed by one year of supervised release, for unlawful reentry by an alien after removal, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst, Jere T. Miles, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New Orleans, and Gregory K. Bovino, Chief Patrol Agent of the U.S. Border Patrol’s New Orleans Sector.
Upon release from his federal prison sentence, Valdez-Santana will remain in the administrative detention custody of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration & Customs Enforcement. Valdez-Santana will face removal proceedings to remove him from the United States back to his home nation of Mexico. As a result of this felony conviction, if Valdez-Santana were to unlawfully return to the U.S., he could face up to ten years in federal prison. Valdez-Santana pled guilty before Judge Guirola on May 9, 2019.
On April 4, 2019, a Biloxi Police officer conducted a traffic stop on a Dodge Caravan on I-10. The officer encountered the driver who was a citizen of Honduras and was illegally present in the United States. The officer observed seven Hispanic passengers, five males and two females. Since the officer did not speak Spanish, he contacted the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Lightning Operations Center, and two Homeland Security Investigations Special Agents responded to the traffic stop. All occupants of the vehicle were determined to be illegally present in the U.S. and were transported to the U.S. Border Patrol office in Gulfport, for further processing. After interviewing all occupants, it was determined that they were being smuggled from Houston, Texas to Maryland. Further investigation revealed that three of the passengers, including Valdez-Santana, were aliens who had unlawfully returned after they had been formally removed from the United States.
Valdez-Santana was first encountered by federal officials in 2009, near Joliet, Illinois, where he was serving a 3-year prison sentence with the Illinois Department of Corrections for a state offense of “Aggravated Driving Under the Influence.” An immigration detainer was placed on Valdez-Santana pending completion of his state prison sentence. In 2011, he was removed from the United States. He was encountered again by federal officials in 2017, and again removed from the United States.
The other two illegal aliens who had returned to the United States, after having been formally removed, were separately prosecuted, convicted and given prison sentences, to be followed by Immigration & Customs Enforcement removal proceedings.
The driver of the vehicle pled guilty and was convicted of unlawful transportation of an alien within the United States. He is awaiting sentencing on that charge.
U.S. Attorney Hurst praised the teamwork and cooperation exhibited by the Biloxi Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Customs & Border Protection, the U.S. Border Patrol, and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant United States Attorney Stan Harris was the prosecutor for the case.