Senator Who Had Illegal Alien Registered Sex Offender Intern Calls for Amnesty

By Matt Cover | January 29, 2013 | 11:14am EST

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) (AP Photo)

( – Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who had an illegal alien who was a registered sex offender, working as an unpaid intern in his New Jersey office, now insists there must be a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens as part of immigration reform.

“Absolutely,” Menendez said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, when asked if a pathway to citizenship was necessary. “[F]irst of all, Americans support it in poll after poll. Secondly, Latino voters expect it. Thirdly, Democrats want it. And fourth, Republicans need it.”

According to the Associated Press, which broke the story December 12, 18-year-old Luis Abraham Sanchez Zavaleta, a Peruvian native, was arrested on December 6 after overstaying his visa. Sanchez was convicted as a juvenile in New Jersey in 2009 of sexually assaulting an eight-year-old boy, which forced him to register as a sex offender.

The Homeland Security Department instructed federal agents not to arrest Sanchez until after Election Day, a U.S. official involved in the case told the AP.  But a Homeland Security spokesman, Peter Boogaard, told the AP in December it was "categorically false" that the department had delayed Sanchez’ arrest until after the election.

Two weeks ago, on Jan. 15, the AP reported that its original story was true--Sanchez’ arrest had been delayed until after the election.

AP’s Jan. 15 report cited documents obtained by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) showing that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had arranged to arrest Sanchez on Oct. 25, almost two weeks before the November 6 election.

But, said the AP, “Noting that Sanchez was a volunteer in Menendez's Senate office, ICE officials in New Jersey advised that the arrest ‘had the possibility of garnering significant congressional and media interest’ and were ‘advised to postpone the arrest’ until officials in Washington gave approval.”

Sanchez reportedly came to the attention of immigration authorities when he tried to apply for President Obama’s executive amnesty program in 2012, despite being ineligible, the AP reported, citing DHS documents.

“The agency documents show that Sanchez failed to update his sex offender registration, and local prosecutors considered arresting him for that. During the same time, immigration officials learned that Sanchez had applied for the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which would have allowed him to stay in the country and legally work for two years,” AP reported.

“By Nov. 29, ICE had planned to arrest Sanchez after Citizenship and Immigration Services had formally denied his deferred action application.”

Sanchez is facing deportation and remains in custody, the AP reported on Jan. 15

Menendez told MSNBC on Dec. 12 that he didn’t know the intern, who reportedly worked for his district office for two-and-a-half months: "What we know is we have a nonpaying college intern program," Menendez said. "We ask the status of all of those college interns ... And we certainly wouldn’t have known through any background checks, since he is a minor, about any sex-offender status."

Menendez also told MSNBC the Sanchez situation is one reason to reform the immigration system: “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 a criminal background check,"  he said on Dec. 12.

This past Sunday, Menendez told ABC’s “This Week” that “looking at making sure employers don't hire individuals who are undocumented” would also be part of the immigration reform proposal that he and a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight would be pushing for in the new Congress.

There was no mention of Menendez’s illegal alien sex-offender intern on the Sunday talk shows.

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