Luis Perez, an illegal alien residing in the United States under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program, has been sentenced to life in prison for the murders of three people in Springfield, Missouri, in 2018.
Perez, 27, received five consecutive life sentences on Jan. 6.
He was found guilty in October of killing two of his former roommates—Steven Marler, 38, and Aaron “Joshua” Hampton, 23—and then the woman who allegedly gave him the gun he used in those killings, 21-year-old Sabrina Starr.
Prior to the murders, Perez had been released from jail in Middlesex County, New Jersey, under the county’s sanctuary immigration policies.
Prosecutors in Greene County, Missouri, initially planned on seeking the death penalty for Perez. However, the attorneys eventually changed their stance. The state of Missouri allows life in prison without the possibility of parole as the only other punishment for first-degree murder.
Perez received DACA protections in both 2012 and 2014, which allowed him to stay in the United States despite having arrived illegally. In December 2017, Perez had been arrested on charges of domestic violence in Middlesex County but was released back into the community.
Originally from Mexico, he came to United States with his family when he was 18 months old, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
Former President Donald Trump criticized DACA in 2019, warning that some of the beneficiaries of the program were “hardened criminals.”
Consecutive Life Sentences
During the hearing, Judge Thomas Mountjoy remarked that he was “struck by the magnitude of the violence” and chose consecutive life sentences for Perez, according to the Springfield News-Leader. “The magnitude speaks to requiring the most severe sentence that the law would structure,” he said.
In 2018, after Perez was charged with the killings, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) criticized Middlesex County in New Jersey for not holding Perez in jail in December 2017 at the agency’s request. At the time, Perez was charged with assault, aggravated assault, and child abuse.
ICE requested that Perez be kept in jail while the agency initiated his deportation proceedings. But jail officials did not accept the request due to the jurisdiction’s sanctuary policy, The Associated Press reported. ICE was also not informed when Perez was released from jail.
Jurisdictions that practice sanctuary policies limit their cooperation with the federal government’s efforts to implement immigration laws.
In a Nov. 18 news release, Corey Price, ICE’s acting executive associate director, said that Middlesex County’s decision to ignore ICE’s request and release a “dangerous criminal alien” into the streets resulted in the deaths of three people.
“Had ICE’s detainer request in December 2017 been honored by Middlesex County Jail, Luis Rodrigo Perez would have been placed in deportation proceedings and likely sent home to his country—and three innocent people might be alive today,” Price said. “It is past time that localities realize the perils of dangerous sanctuary policies and resume their primary goal of protecting their residents.”
Deborah Elkins, mother of one of the deceased victims, now advocates against sanctuary cities and is part of an organization called Angel Families, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
In 2019, Elkins pushed for the “Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act,” introduced by Rep. Ted Budd and Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, which sought to create a “private right of civil action for the victims of sanctuary jurisdictions.”