WASHINGTON - House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has told FOX 5 that his committee is investigating how U.S. immigration officials allowed two Maryland high school students, charged in the rape of their 14-year-old classmate, to enter the country last year.
The House Judiciary Committee is requesting "the complete alien file" on 18-year-old Henry Sanchez and 17-year-old Jose Montano along with data on "how and when each individual entered the United States."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has told FOX 5 that Sanchez was encountered by a border patrol agent last August in Texas. It was determined he entered the United States from Mexico illegally. He was issued a notice to appear in front of an immigration judge, but the hearing had not been scheduled.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Goodlatte asks, “Is either individual a member of, or associated with, any criminal gang?"
Goodlatte said he will hold a hearing next week about this case.
"We have already received a good verbal response from the Department of Homeland Security, that they are looking forward to responding to this letter as an opportunity to tell how they are changing policies so that in the future, people showing up at our border will not get released into the interior of the country so that things like this will be far less likely to happen,” said Rep. Goodlatte.
In Montgomery County, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was met with protesters as she and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan at the Carderock Springs Elementary School in Bethesda. DeVos did not take questions about the Rockville High School rape case, but did issue a statement saying, “As a mother of two daughters and grandmother of four young girls, my heart aches for the young woman and her family at the center of these terrible circumstances. We all have a common responsibility to ensure every student has access to a safe and nurturing learning environment."
Hogan, who blasted Montgomery County Public Schools on Tuesday for not providing information about the case to state officials, said there has been progress, but the school district has to be transparent. FOX 5 asked the Maryland governor if he has received any answers from Montgomery County officials.
“Well, not all of them, but we did have a conversation a little earlier and I asked for the continuing discussion,” he said. “We don't have all the information. It is an ongoing investigation and we kind of want to let everybody do their jobs."
For a second consecutive day, school officials report both the school and its social media accounts have been flooded with threats. A Montgomery County Public Schools spokesperson said the threats are not thought to be credible, but some of the messages have threatened explosive devices and gunfire to "shoot up the illegals."
Montgomery County School Board member Patricia O'Neill is calling for calm, saying that school board members share the public's anger over the attack, but there is no place for these threats.
“When I first heard of this incident, the breath just came out of me because I was so shocked and horrified – how could this happen in Montgomery County Public Schools?” O’Neill said.
For the first time, the attorney of one of the two suspects spoke out about the rape case. Defense attorney Andrew Jezic said in a statement saying his client Henry Sanchez is innocent and the subject of “a rush to judgment.” Jezic said Sanchez will plead not guilty and they believe he and the alleged victim engaged in a consensual act.
However, the victim is 14 years old, which is below the age of consent in the state of Maryland.