United States Flag
Official Website of the Department of Homeland Security

Report Crimes: Email or Call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE

Child Exploitation

ICE deports fugitive alien to face charges in Mexico for raping a 6-year-old girl who later died of her injuries

ELDORA, Iowa - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) agents on Wednesday deported a Mexican national who is suspected of raping a 6-year-old girl, who later died as a result, in Mexico in 1997. He was escorted to the border and handed over to Mexican federal officials to face these charges after he evaded Mexican courts for more than 14 years.

The 16th Judge of the Districto Federal of Mexico issued an arrest warrant for Rafael Cruz Romero, aka Jose Luis Rivas Escamilla, 28, in February 1997 charging him with the aggravated rape of 6-year-old Jessica Escamilla Mendoza. Mendoza later died as a result of the crime.

"ICE is committed to prosecuting and removing individuals who blatantly violate our nation's immigration laws," said ICE ERO St. Paul Field Office Director, Scott Baneicke. "Due to close cooperation with Mexican officials, Mr. Cruz will now have to face charges for this needless, gruesome crime."

Romero entered the United States illegally in 2004 and was later arrested in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for public intoxication. When he was released on these criminal charges, he was transferred to ICE custody. A federal immigration judge subsequently ordered his deportation in 2009, which was carried out by ICE in November of that same year.

Following his November 2009 deportation, he illegally re-entered the United States. He was again arrested in October 2010 on misdemeanor charges in Iowa, and was ultimately convicted in the Northern District of Iowa for illegally re-entering the United States after being deported, which is a felony.

Upon his release from prison for the latest conviction, he was transferred to ICE, and was later escorted across the border to Mexico by ICE ERO agents.

While awaiting trial on the re-entry charge in 2010, ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) determined Romero was the same man named in the 1997 Mexican warrant. ICE HSI worked with Mexican officials to arrange his return to Mexican custody.

Romero was held in Hardin County, Iowa, until March 23 when he was flown to Laredo, Texas and escorted to the border to awaiting Mexican federal authorities.