WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Mexican woman who tried to hide a gun her boyfriend used to fatally shoot a Kansas teenager has been deported, the government said Wednesday.
Azucena Garcia-Ferniza, a 22-year-old immigrant who had been living in Salina, was deported Friday to Mexico, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson.
Garcia-Ferniza was sentenced in December to the 15 months she had been in custody after pleading guilty to a weapons count that prohibits people who are unlawfully in the country from possessing a firearm.
Court documents say she legally entered the U.S. at the age of 3, but her visitor visa expired in 1998. She was covered in 2013 under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for two years, and had a work permit. It was terminated after the offense.
Seventeen-year-old Allie Saum was killed in 2015 in Salina while riding in a pickup truck mistaken for someone else’s truck.
When Salina police were at Garcia-Ferniza’s home to follow up on leads related to that murder investigation, she tried to hide the firearm used in the murder by placing it in her pants while officers were obtaining a search warrant for the residence, according to the criminal complaint.
Garcia-Ferniza’s boyfriend, Macio Palacio Jr., has been sentenced to more than 50 years in prison after being convicted in Saum’s death.
An issue that surfaced during the federal court proceedings against Garcia-Ferniza was whether she was an immigrant unlawfully in the country and therefore unable to legally possess the firearm because she was covered by DACA.
Her defense attorney tried to get the case thrown out on those grounds, but he ultimately gave up that attempt after prosecutors made the argument that DACA does not confer any form of legal immigration “status” in the country.
Anderson argued in a court filing that DACA simply means her “presence” was lawful for extremely limited purposes for immigration benefits at the time she had the firearm, but that her immigration status remained that of someone who was illegally in the United States.
He cited previous rulings which found DACA was a “purely discretionary executive policy” for which no procedural rights have been extended and no Congressional approval has been obtained.
The government also noted that to qualify for DACA, applicants effectively swear under penalty of perjury that they have no lawful status in the United States.
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