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Court cases lead to deportations

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has taken an interest in several recent cases coming out of Carroll County and Galax courts.

Where convictions were obtained against undocumented aliens who committed crimes, the punishment will include deportation back to their countries of origin — though their sentences may involve prison time in the U.S. first.

Take, for example, Ramiro Rodriquez Carvajal, lately of Hillsville.

Back in 2005, Galax Officer Mark Burnett charged Carvajal for misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

In 2006, a grand jury issued an additional charge of felony possession of methamphetamine against Carvajal.

When his cases came to trial in Carroll County Circuit Court, the judge found Carvajal guilty and sentenced him to three years in prison for the felony and 30 days in jail for the marijuana, with sentences to run concurrently.

After that, Carvajal was deported, according to court officials.

But he stood before the bar in Carroll County again this January after being picked up for violating probation.

Probation and parole officers learned that Carvajal had already been deported once, so they issued a capias to get him back in court.

When Carvajal returned for a Feb. 18 revocation hearing, the court released him from supervised probation and placed him on good behavior, according to court officials.

But Carvajal would not be released from state custody, because federal authorities had a “detainer” on him — meaning state officials were to turn him over to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons for federal prosecution and possibly another deportation, according to Karen Boyer, Carroll’s assistant commonwealth’s attorney, who handled the case locally.

A number of cases arising out of Galax and Carroll jurisdictions, prosecuted by Boyer, have resulted in ICE taking a stand against those convicted.

These convictions have included:

• Simon Carlos Cortez of Galax.

Originally charged with 12 counts of rape against a minor victim, he pleaded guilty to three counts. The rest of the charges were dropped.

His sentence from his 2009 conviction included a 25-year stint in the Virginia Department of Corrections, plus three years of probation. After that, he’ll be turned over to the feds, according to the prosecutor.

• Mario Alvarez-Alfaro of Jonesville, N.C.

Originally charged by direct indictment with statutory burglary, shooting into an occupied dwelling and possession of a firearm by a felon, he entered guilty pleas to burglary and unlawful shooting.

The court gave Alvarez-Alfaro a year and a half in prison on each conviction to serve concurrently.

After his time in prison, Alvarez-Alfaro is to be deported.

• Osmin Guadalupe Cueva-Sierra of Galax.

Charged with aggravated sexual battery in which the victim was a minor. Cueva-Sierra was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, with 11 years and 8 months suspended.

He will be deported after serving his sentence.

• Fernando Sanchez Hernandez of Greensboro, N.C.

He pleaded guilty to possession of meth in Carroll court last September and was to be deported.

• Celene Barba Huerta of Galax.

Charged with three counts of distribution of meth, Huerta pleaded guilty in January.

With all 10 years of her prison sentence suspended, Huerta was given credit for time served and turned over to federal authorities, according to court officials.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security installed an immigration enforcement officer in Roanoke about four years ago to work on these kinds of cases, said Galax Police Chief Rick Clark.

The chief refers about 10 cases a year that originate in Galax to the ICE official. The police will alert federal authorities on any cases that involve undocumented immigrants who commit felonies.

These cases come out of everyday police work, Clark explained. Though he considered getting his officers certified for immigration enforcement, the chief found he couldn’t afford it then, and certainly can’t afford it now in the face of Virginia’s ongoing budget crisis.

But over the years the officers have developed a rapport with ICE officials.

“I think we may have a better understanding of what their process is,” Clark said.

While the days that a busload of undocumented aliens could be picked up in Galax, some activity remains, he acknowledged.

“The Twin Counties as a whole is out of the way and there’s a strong and vibrant Hispanic community here.”

For the most part, the only thing that most undocumented immigrants want is a better life for their children, and they come here to find it.

“By and large, I think they’re chasing the American dream,” he said.