The Channel 4 I-Team found a man living in Middle Tennessee, who was granted United States citizenship even though he was accused of a double murder in Mexico. Now, a Tennessee lawmaker is vowing to take action.
Court documents show Avelino Cruz-Martinez has been living and working in Wilson County since 2007, and he even became an American citizen in 2010, although authorities in Mexico had already issued an arrest warrant for him in 2006.
"This is just unconscionable," said State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro. "It truly shows that our immigration system in this country is broken, and, you know, somebody needs to be held accountable."
Before becoming a U.S. citizen, Cruz-Martinez had been a legal resident working in the U.S. since the 1980s.
In 2007, he got a full-time job with Jones Brothers Construction in Mt. Juliet, where a company spokesman tell us they don't do international background checks before hiring employees.
But authorities in Mexico say a pair of witnesses had come forward, claiming Cruz-Martinez shot and killed two men there.
An official with the Department of Homeland Security would not agree to an on-camera interview, but he did say the agency does conduct international background checks before someone is granted citizenship.
If someone is wanted for a crime, they would not be granted citizenship until that person is tried in a court of law, the official said.
It's unclear why that background check process did not turn up the warrant on Cruz-Martinez, but Ketron said he plans to find out.
"Thank you for alerting me to this, and I'll be taking some action in the next day or so," he said.
Cruz-Martinez was arrested last month by federal authorities on that Mexican warrant, and is currently being detained as he fights extradition proceedings.
His lawyer said in court Tuesday, his client didn't even know he was wanted in Mexico, and argued the two witnesses who implicated him in the murders are not reliable.
In a statement, Cruz-Martinez's employers said:
"We were very surprised to hear of these allegations, and have no information as to whether they are valid or are not valid. Mr. Martinez has been a good and reliable employee for several years, and is a U.S. citizen who followed all the right procedures to attain his citizenship. We are not involved in this case, but are monitoring it closely."
Another court date is set for next month to discuss whether Cruz-Martinez should be extradited to Mexico.
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