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Why Wasn't Pennsylvania Fugitive Deported For Brazilian Case?

At an unknown time and location, Danelo Souza Cavalcante, a 34-year-old Brazilian, entered the U.S. unlawfully without being admitted by a U.S. immigration official, according to the Department of Homeland Security. In April 2021, prosecutors said he fatally stabbed his Brazilian girlfriend in front of her children in Pennsylvania. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He was fleeing a 2017 murder charge in Brazil when he entered the U.S. His escape from the Chester County, Pa., Prison on Aug. 31 touched off a colossal manhunt, now in its second week, amid questions about why he had not been deported after his arrest and whether, if captured, he would remain in prison at public expense. The case highlights an issue the criminal justice system has long confronted: what happens when crimes are committed by undocumented immigrants, who studies show are much less likely to commit crimes than U.S.-born citizens, the New York Times reports.


Immigrants in the U.S. illegally and charged with relatively minor offenses are often sent back to their homelands. For a variety of reasons, those facing serious crimes are most often required to serve their sentences in the U.S. In Cavalcante’s case, any decision on deporting him would most likely have to be postponed until after he had served out his sentence. “The primary way that [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] comes into contact with undocumented immigrants is if they have committed crimes,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Council. Cavalcante was wanted in Brazil in connection with the slaying of a man in his small town of Figueiropolis in 2017. Even if Brazil had issued an Interpol notice calling for his arrest, the U.S. would have had no reason to believe he was living in the U.S. Only after his arrest in connection with the murder of his girlfriend in April 2021 did ICE become aware that he was in the country, the agency said.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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