BALTIMORE, Md. – A 55-year-old Hyattsville man was sentenced Friday to 11.5 months in prison for attempting to unlawfully procure naturalization. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Baltimore.
In August 1988, Morales entered the United States by crossing the international border from Mexico into Texas illegally. He traveled to the Washington, D.C. metro-area, where he resided and legally worked for many years. He applied for and was granted lawful permanent resident status in 1990.
On July 13, 2006, Morales sought U.S. citizenship by submitting the N-400 naturalization application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). On his N-400 and during a USCIS official interview, Morales falsely claimed under oath that he was not a part of any group reportable to USCIS. In actuality, he was a member of the Kaibiles, a military unit involved in serious human rights offenses, and he sought to conceal his involvement with that military unit. This false representation was a material factor when immigration authorities reviewed Morales’ application for U.S. citizenship.
According to his plea agreement, in 1980, Jose Ortiz Morales joined the Guatemalan Army and became a member of a Special Forces military unit known as the Kaibiles. The Kaibiles were involved in serious human rights offenses during the time period in which Morales was a member. The military unit of approximately 20 soldiers allegedly participated in the massacre of more than 200 unarmed villagers in the small hamlet of Dos Erres, Guatemala. The massacre occurred Dec. 6, 1982, when the soldiers indiscriminately killed innocent men, women and more than100 children. Many of the women were raped by the soldiers before they were forced to walk at gun point to a well in the center of the village, where they were bludgeoned in the head with a hammer, and their bodies thrown into the well. Those villagers who did not die of the blow to their head were killed when a soldier fired a weapon and threw a grenade into the well.
Morales pleaded guilty on May 25, 2017.
Morales has been indicted in Guatemala for his alleged participation in these war crimes.
The investigation in this case was supported by ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC). Established in 2009 to further ICE’s efforts to identify, track, and prosecute human rights abusers, the HRVWCC leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians, and analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.
Since 2003, ICE has arrested more than 380 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders against and physically removed 785 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Additionally, ICE has facilitated the departure of an additional 108 such individuals from the United States. Currently, HSI has more than 160 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,750 leads and removals cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries. Since 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 70,400 lookouts for individuals from more than 110 countries and stopped 213 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the U.S.
Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to call the ICE Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2423 (1-866-347-2423). Callers may remain anonymous. To learn more about the assistance available to victims in these cases, the public should contact ICE’s confidential victim-witness toll-free number at 1-866-872-4973.