Migrant Who Raped and Killed Maryland Woman Was Known MS-13 Affiliate, Report Finds

The Biden administration has 'failed to implement basic screening and vetting measures' at the border, lawmakers say

(Mario Tama/Getty Images)
May 24, 2023

The Salvadoran national who raped and killed a 20-year-old American citizen was granted entry into the United States in spite of his MS-13 affiliation and arrest record, a congressional investigation found.

The unnamed 17-year-old alien charged with the rape and murder of Kayla Hamilton was arrested "years before coming to the U.S." for "illicit association with the dangerous MS-13 gang," Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee reported Tuesday. The report claims the alien’s history should have been detected by either Border Patrol or the Department of Health and Human Services, both of which held the alien in custody before releasing him into the country. It is unclear why the alien never received a sufficient background check, but the report suggests lax immigration policies are to blame.

"The sad fact is that [Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas] and the Biden Administration have failed to implement basic screening and vetting measures—such as checking with law enforcement officials in an alien's home country—to ensure that those entering the U.S. are not dangerous criminals or known gang members," the report reads. "This callous disregard for the safety of Americans, in the name of expedited alien processing, resulted in the tragic and preventable murder of Kayla Hamilton."

The case offers a window into how the Biden administration’s lax border policies put Americans at risk across the country. At least 14,136 unaccompanied minors entered the United States at the same time as the unidentified suspect, a small subset of the 5.5 million aliens who have entered the United States illegally since President Joe Biden took office. Some of those aliens who entered the country illegally have gone on to commit high-profile crimes, including the Mexican national—who had been deported at least four times since 2009—suspected of killing five neighbors in Texas last month.

The 17-year-old suspect in the case, who has not been named due to his age, arrived at the southern border as an unaccompanied minor in March 2022. After his apprehension by Border Patrol, the suspect was then transferred to a Health and Human Services facility before being released into the custody of an alleged first cousin in Maryland.

The suspect then fled home after just a month, local authorities said. Two months later, he allegedly raped and killed Hamilton, an autistic woman who lived in Aberdeen, Maryland. The alien was arrested in January and charged with first-degree murder, robbery, and rape.

The report notes a number of warning signs that law enforcement overlooked before and after the suspect was released from federal custody. Maryland police discovered that the alleged murderer had gang tattoos upon his arrest which were not noted in his case file, the report states.

Instead, the alien suspect was described by Health and Human Services as "a respectful young man" who "demonstrated good judgment and age-appropriate behaviors." MS-13 is considered one of the most dangerous crime syndicates in the Western hemisphere. Experts estimate more than 10,000 MS-13 members reside in the United States.

"If we determine that the individuals pose a threat to national security or public safety, we deny admission, detain, remove, or turn them over to another agency for prosecution, as appropriate," a Department of Homeland Security spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon. "We work closely with our interagency and international partners to detect and prevent people who pose national security or public safety risks from entering the United States."

The Department of Health and Human Services also failed to notice a number of discrepancies with the alien suspect’s backstory. When he arrived at the U.S. border, the alien suspect said he fled El Salvador "to escape gang-related threats," the report states. He then sought to be reunited with his "aunt," who according to Health and Human Services, was really his cousin. Health and Human Services referred to that cousin as both a man and a woman, the report states.

The alien suspect later claimed he communicated with his father once he was in the United States, the report states, even though he previously said he had no relationship with him. The alien suspect also said he had no siblings in the country, although Health and Human Services identified a half-brother.

Health and Human Services has long faced criticism over how it handles alien children. A Senate report last year found the agency exhibits a "serious disregard for these children’s welfare."

In April, the New York Times published a lengthy report about how Health and Human Services released children who ended up working in factories and meatpacking plants. Some children identified by that report were as young as 12.

A senior official from Health and Human Services testified to the House of Representatives that same month that the agency is not responsible for "protecting unaccompanied alien children from abuse and trafficking after placement with a sponsor." The agency has said it cannot account for more than 85,000 alien children since Biden took office.

The Department of Health and Human Services and Border Patrol did not respond to requests for comment.