Yesterday evening a northern Virginia jury convicted Julio Blanco-Garcia, an illegal immigrant with a history of scrapes with law enforcement, of first-degree murder in the July 2010 stabbing death of Vanessa Pham. The 19-year-old victim was giving Blanco-Garcia a ride to a local hospital when he killed her in a fit of PCP-fueled paranoia.
The Washington Post's Justin Jouvenal has been covering the trial and has repeatedly failed to note Blanco-Garcia's status as an illegal immigrant. Today's 22-paragraph Metro section front-pager was no exception. It's not like this is not public knowledge. As Whitney Rhodes of the AOL-owned Patch.com news website noted on December 15, 2012:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Friday the man accused of murdering 19-year-old Vanessa Pham is in violation of immigration law.
ICE placed a detainer on suspect Julio Miguel Blanco-Garcia, 27, on Thursday, the day he was arrested and charged with Pham's 2010 murder. They released the following statement on Friday
"On Dec. 13, the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force, which consists of U.S. Marshals deputies and inspectors, Fairfax County Police detectives and sheriff's deputies and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Washington, DC Fugitive Operations Unit officers arrested Julio Blanco-Garcia, a citizen and national of Guatemala, in Vienna, Va. on a homicide warrant issued out of Fairfax County, Va. ERO officers placed a detainer on Julio Blanco-Garcia after it was determined that he was in violation of U.S. immigration law."
The detainer requires Fairfax County Police to notify ICE before releasing Blanco-Garcia. ICE will then investigate whether he fits the requirements to be removed from the country.
Blanco-Garcia will complete his criminal trial before ICE takes any action, Nicole Navas, ICE public affairs spokesperson said.
To be fair, back in December, Jouvenal himself did note that ICE officials revealed Blanco-Garcia was in the country illegally, and that he has a prior conviction on a misdemeanor charge, but Blanco-Garcia's illegal immigrant status has not been noted in more recent reporting:
Immigration officials disclosed Friday that Blanco-Garcia was a Guatemalan national who was in the country illegally. Local court records showed a misdemeanor shoplifting conviction in Fairfax County this year but not an extensive criminal background.
The Washington Post has a history of obscuring or omitting the illegal immigrant status of perpetrators of deadly criminal acts. In August 2010, my colleague Tim Graham noted how the paper obscured the illegal immigration status of one Carlos Martinelly-Montano, a serial drunk driver in northern Virginia charged in a fatal DUI incident which took the lives of some local nuns:
A lot of newspaper readers just scan the headlines quickly and choose only a few stories to read, even on the front page. Newspapers are often accused of tabloidish, exaggerated headlines. But sometimes, they do the opposite, with duller headlines that seem designed not to inform -- or offend.
The front page of Tuesday's Washington Post carried the headline "Va. driver had record of DUIs before fatal crash." Here's what it could have said: "Illegal alien had record of DUIs before fatal Sunday morning crash killed nun." The Post also bland-ified the headline inside the paper: "Driver had DUI record before fatal crash in Va." The caption for Carlos Montano on page A-12 also avoided his illegal status: "Carlos Montano, 23, is charged in the crash."
The story itself by Jennifer Buske and Paul Duggan didn't avoid the issue, so why would the headline writers try to dull down the story?