WRAL Investigates

US border poses no obstacle to repeat felon

Posted July 31, 2014

— Although the thousands of children streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border has recently garnered nationwide headlines, people who treat the border like a revolving door make a moral and political debate over immigration reform more complicated, especially for local law enforcement.

Lorenzo Antonio Lopez-Mejia, for example, has been deported at least 15 times in the last 16 years and is charged with crimes in three states.

"He told us he'd been deported before, said it'd be OK, he'd be back in two weeks with his friends, and he was going to kill us," said Wayne County deputy Jonathan Batchelor, who arrested Lopez-Mejia in April.

Batchelor charged Lopez-Mejia with speeding and driving while impaired, but he also found his suspect had many aliases.

"There were three names, and he never would give his real name," Batchelor said.

Lopez-Mejia spent the past few months serving out his state sentence, which also included charges of resisting arrest and communicating threats, but he's now in federal custody in Pitt County, facing a charge related to returning to the United States as a felon.

According to a federal complaint, he was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents in New York in 1998 but never showed up for his court appearance.

Four years later, he was arrested in New Mexico, driving a van with seven other undocumented immigrants headed to North Carolina. The following year, he was accused of transporting 19 undocumented people in Arizona.

In 2011, he was arrested for DWI in Wayne County, but federal authorities were never notified that he was in custody, according to the federal complaint.

"If that's the case, then you get them next time," Batchelor said, noting that he notified CBP after the April arrest.

"On my end, there's nothing I can do," he said. "I can charge them with state law and try to pass it on up."

Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page, a member of the National Sheriff's Association border security committee, recently visited south Texas to see the challenges of closing the revolving door to immigrants who repeatedly cross into the U.S. illegally.

"We don't know who's coming in or going out of our communities," Page said. "It's kind of like a bathtub. You can run water, (but) if you don't put a plug in it, it's going to continue to run. We've got to put a plug on the U.S. border."

It's unclear how much federal prison time Lopez-Mejia could face before he's deported again.


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  • Forthe Newssite Aug 1, 2014
    user avatar

    And it apparently poses no obstacle to ANY illegal....

  • 68_dodge_polara Aug 1, 2014

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    Obama and most other Capitol Hill lawmakers --framed the request in terms of a “humanitarian” need

    Just how pray tell is that for a security? Just how is that not for for handouts to them as they come over the border?

    With out a wall or something we might as well give up on keeping Islamic militants out if all they have to do is go to Mexico and walk right in....

  • "Screen Name-8/20" Aug 1, 2014

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    So many of you are wrong.

    The $3.7B is to pay for more security along our southern border.

    Concrete fences/walls won't work because the lives of migratory animals can't be stopped for the strength and safety of the ecosystem.

    The Romans found a way to keep the Scots from attacking them. They built Hadrian's Wall which had sentries every mile or so with gates to let those who warranted passage, that passage and armed sentries ensured those who didn't, didn't or died trying.

    Do we not have enough troops to do such as that along our southern border?

  • "Screen Name-8/20" Aug 1, 2014

    "We don't know who's coming in or going out of our communities," Page said. "It's kind of like a bathtub. You can run water, (but) if you don't put a plug in it, it's going to continue to run. We've got to put a plug on the U.S. border."

    And when they're coming in and going out of our communities without the medical examinations and innoculations required LEGAL immigrants, how do we control illnesses they may be bringing here with them?

    Is it going to take the relative of a Federal legislator contracting a fatal illness brought in by ILLEGALS before they do something about this?

    And if so, why??? Aren't the health and lives of us and our loved ones as important as those of them and their loved ones???

    Guess not...

  • "Screen Name-8/20" Aug 1, 2014

    This is EXACTLY why ILLEGALS who break our laws should serve sentences for that before they're deported. It slows 'em down a bit, and if the sentence were harsh enough - it might make them think twice before coming back (probably not).

    Now this guy's crimes weren't horrendous, but the crimes of some of them are, and they come right back in and do those same horrendous crimes again.


  • TJ Wahoo Aug 1, 2014
    user avatar

    This story should really be national news. I have yet to comprehend the rationale of people who believe we should have open borders.

  • 68_dodge_polara Aug 1, 2014

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    You seriously don't believe the president requested 3.7 Billion dollars to build a fence did you? It's to be use for handouts to them as they come over the border.

  • John McCray Aug 1, 2014
    user avatar

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    That may be, but I was specifically referring to the concrete wall ideas. I'm all for driving piles and putting steel paneling in.

  • Ty Shrake Aug 1, 2014
    user avatar

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    President Obama just requested 3.7 Billion dollars to 'help with this crisis'. You can be sure it will cost far more than this.

    The Secure Fence Act of 2006 was to appropriate 1.2 billion dollars for 700 miles of double fencing that would have been very effective. It was estimated that it may cost as much as another 4.8 Billion... a total of roughly twice what the president has requested. But still far cheaper than many years of government assistance to hundreds of thousands of new illegal immigrants.

    The Secure Fence Act was defunded in the House of Representatives in 2007, mostly by Democrats but also a few Republicans.

    If we had that fence today we wouldn't be in this situation. Fences work. The fence in San Diego greatly reduced illegal immigration into the county (I know, I lived there at the time). Build a fence that is in the right areas and is big enough and it WILL have an impact.

  • WageSlave Aug 1, 2014

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    This is what concerns me about a wall. Who says it won't be used to keep people in?