BATON ROUGE, La. - Jose Antonio Palma, 23, of Mexico, was sentenced on Friday by U.S. District Judge Frank J. Polozola to serve 15 years in prison and three years of supervised release following an investigation led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
Palma pleaded guilty to one count of illegally reentering the United States after he had been deported in 2008. Prior to his guilty plea, the U.S. Attorney's Office filed a notice of sentencing enhancement seeking to enhance Palma's sentence based on his 2004 conviction for simple burglary and 2008 conviction for aggravated battery. Either of these prior convictions qualified as an aggravated felony for purposes of immigration law and served to enhance the statutory maximum from two to 20 years in prison.
Judge Polozola, in ordering the sentence, referenced the defendant's propensity to commit crimes, the repeated lenient treatment he received for prior convictions, his pattern of preying on illegal aliens, and the serious, assaultive nature of his prior crimes. He stressed the violent nature of the defendant's prior crimes in which the defendant used a knife and/or hammer to stab and/or beat two victims. He further emphasized that the defendant had been deported on two occasions, had entered illegally on several occasions and had been warned that, as an aggravated felon, he was barred from entry into the U.S. for life.
"This significant prison sentence helps send the message that reentering the United States after being formally deported is a serious crime," said Philip Miller, field office director of ICE ERO in New Orleans. "ICE's close coordination with the U.S. Attorney's Office helps put teeth into the immigration laws." Miller oversees ICE ERO in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee.
U.S. Attorney Don Cazayoux Jr. remarked, "The defendant in this case is an excellent example of the type of offender who should be targeted under the Criminal Alien Program (CAP) program. Palma is a violent offender who has repeatedly entered our country and committed serious crimes. His sentence will ensure that the public will be protected from his future crimes, as well as send a message to those who enter illegally and commit brutal crimes that their conduct will not be tolerated."
The charge arose from CAP which is administered by ICE ERO. Under the CAP program, ERO agents routinely comb local jails to identify foreign nationals who are illegally present in the U.S. and who may, by virtue of their criminal history, warrant federal prosecution.
The case was investigated by ICE, with the assistance of the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office, and officers of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office and Denham Springs Police Department who testified at the sentencing hearing. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan C. Amundson.