WASHINGTON – A convicted murderer from Honduras was arrested after illegally entering the U.S. with members of the migrant caravan, Department of Homeland Security officials said Friday.
The arrest Nov. 24 came the same day that an alleged member of the MS-13 crime gang from Honduras was arrested for entering the U.S. illegally, officials said.
Advocates for the migrant caravan of thousands of Central Americans heading across Mexico to the U.S. have challenged federal estimates that 600 criminals were traveling in the groups. But U.S. officials said the latest arrests, combined with arrests in Mexico, justify the estimates.
“As DHS confirmed weeks ago, there are at least 600 known criminals in the caravan flow,” said Tyler Houlton, a department spokesman. “The fact that Border Patrol arrested a murderer within the first caravan-related apprehensions at our southern border proves how real the threat of the caravan is to our national security and public safety.”
President Donald Trump has called migrants “stone cold criminals” and deployed 5,800 active-duty military troops to the southern border to protect against the caravan. DHS formally asked the Pentagon Friday to extend the deployment from Dec. 15 to Jan. 31.
Tensions flared Sunday when migrants clashed with Customs and Border Patrol officers at the San Ysidro port of entry, throwing rocks before being dispersed with tear gas.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said while visiting San Diego last week, and CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan repeated Monday, that at least 500 criminals were suspected of traveling with the caravans, based on intelligence sources in the U.S. and other countries. McAleenan said Mexico had arrested 100 migrants for criminal violations.
On Nov. 24, Border Patrol agents arrested three men about 11 p.m. about one mile east of San Ysidro. One of the suspects, Miguel Angel Ramirez, 46, had been imprisoned in Honduras for murder and was released four months ago, officials said. The conviction was confirmed with the Honduras consulate, officials said.
He was held with two other Honduras men, aged 22 and 38, pending deportation for illegal entry to the U.S.
Earlier that day, Border Patrol agents encountered a man about 6 p.m. just east of the Calexico port of entry. The man, Jose Villalobos-Jobel, 29, acknowledged being a member of the Mara Salvatrucha 13 gang and said he traveled to the U.S. with the caravan. A records check at the El Centro processing station confirmed his identity and he repeated his gang involvement, officials said.
He was detained for processing and repatriation to Honduras.