The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) knew last year that an illegal alien California camp counselor known as “Papa Bear” was being investigated on child molestation and child pornography charges but did nothing about it, Iowa U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley claims in a letter sent to DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson on Wednesday.
Edgar Covarrubias-Padilla was arrested May 7 and charged with four felonies including child molestation and the distribution of child pornography. According to local news reports, authorities believe that Covarrubias-Padilla also produced child pornography.
Covarrubias-Padilla recently worked as a night counselor at Walden West, an environmental science camp near San Jose. Besides the recovery of 600 child porn images from his computer, Covarrubias-Padilla has been accused of sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy. The Santa Clara County Office of Education told Grassley’s office that it had received over 100 phone calls and 50 emails from parents concerned that their child may have been victimized. Covarrubias-Padilla worked at two other camps over the past two years.
In his letter to Johnson, Grassley stated that whistleblowers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — a DHS sub-agency — claim that the federal authorities knew as early as Nov. 17 that Covarrubias-Padilla was being investigated for child sex abuse charges.
Yet, nothing was done about his DACA status until his recent arrest, Grassley claims.
The whistleblowers claim that on Oct. 8, 2012, Covarrubias-Padilla applied for amnesty protection under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. His amnesty and work eligibility were scheduled to last through this month, at which point he would have been allowed to re-apply for the program.
“These allegations are deeply troubling because, if true, they suggest that DHS was aware for months or years that Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla posed a public safety threat to the children he was monitoring, yet took no action to revoke his DACA authorization,” Grassley, a Republican, wrote to Johnson.
“These allegations are particularly alarming because they suggest that Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla would not have been placed in a position to abuse and exploit children had DHS properly vetted DACA recipients,” Grassley added.
Grassley has recently shed light on other cases involving felonious DACA recipients. One particular egregious case of DHS failure was Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez. Rangel-Hernandez was slated for deportation following a 2012 marijuana charge. He applied for amnesty under DACA in Feb. 2013, and his application was approved in Aug. 2013. But the application was approved even though U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) was aware that Rangel-Hernandez was gang-affiliated. Gang members are not eligible for DACA status.
After Grassley raised questions about Rangel-Hernandez’s case, USCIS admitted in a response letter that it erred in approving his DACA application and ensured that steps were taken to prevent gang members from being given amnesty in the future.
In his latest letter to Johnson, Grassley asked 11 questions about Covarrubias-Padilla’s DACA application, immigration status, and known criminal history.
He asked for a response by May 29.
Grassley also sought information on how ICE and USCIS coordinated and shared information about Covarrubias-Padilla.
“Did USCIS know or have reason to know that ICE was investigating Edgar Covarrubias-Padilla in connection to crimes involving either possession or distribution of child pornography or child exploitation, including molestation?” Grassley asked.
“If Edgar Covarrubias-Padilla was under investigation by ICE, please provide the procedures in place for when, and in what manner, ICE would have notified USCIS.”