An unpaid intern of Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) was an illegal immigrant and registered sex offender, and was arrested by immigration authorities Dec. 6, the Associated Press reported.
The Homeland Security Department instructed federal agents to not arrest Luis Abraham Sanchez Zavaleta, 18, until after Election Day, according to a U.S. official involved in the case:
Zaveleta was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in front of his home in New Jersey, two federal officials said. Sanchez, who entered the country on a now-expired visitor visa from Peru, is facing deportation and remains in custody. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of Sanchez’s immigration case. […]
Menendez, who advocates aggressively for pro-immigration policies, was re-elected in November with 58 percent of the vote. Congressional staffers who work for Menendez were notified about Sanchez’s case shortly after the arrest. Sanchez told ICE agents that he worked on immigration issues for the senator. A spokesman for Menendez said she was looking into the matter. […]
The prosecutor’s office in Hudson County, N.J., said Sanchez was found to have violated the law in 2010 and subsequently required to register as a sex offender. The exact charge was unclear because Sanchez was prosecuted as a juvenile and those court records are not publicly accessible. The prosecutor’s office confirmed to AP that Sanchez registered as a sex offender, although his name does not appear on the public registry.
Menendez said he did not know about the arrest until just before his interview on MSNBC Wednesday afternoon, but his staff became aware of it on Monday.
“We certainly wouldn’t have known through any background checks since he is a minor about any sex offender status,” Menendez said. “Once it came to our attention, our New Jersey staff director let the young man go from the program. … We have a whole bunch of college interns. There’s no way we can know about any allegation as a juvenile. That’s the story.”
Last month, New Jersey Republicans asked the Senate Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into Menendez based on public records and media reports indicating the senator failed to disclose and seek permission for a series of flights between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic from 2010 to 2012.