Plymouth County D.A. Timothy Cruz’s effort to get Ecuador to extradite accused double-murderer Luis Guaman to Massachusetts for prosecution is well-meaning but likely futile. Guaman is suspected of killing Maria Palaguachi-Cela and her young son a year ago in Brockton. The case stoked debate over Governor Patrick’s and ICE’s decision not to implement Secure Communities here; Guaman was an illegal alien with prior arrests and warrants in Massachusetts and New York, and would almost certainly have been detained long before the murder if local police had been hooked up to the ICE program. Like thousands of illegal alien criminals before him, he fled back to Ecuador before authorities could catch him.
Cruz and Sen. Scott Brown held a press conference yesterday to call for Ecuador to return Guaman to the United States for prosecution. Guaman is now being held by Ecuadoran law enforcement on other charges, but they might have to release him soon if Cruz continues to insist on extradition rather than cooperate so that Guaman can be prosecuted there.
Ecuador is a sovereign nation with a constitution that does not allow for its citizens to be extradited. According to my State Department sources, they are almost certainly not going to send Guaman back to the United States – period. U.S. diplomats in Ecuador, together with the victims’ family members, have managed to put enough pressure on the Ecuadoran government so that it is very likely that Guaman actually will be prosecuted, which is admittedly a rarity in Ecuador. But in order to obtain a legitimate conviction, Ecuadoran prosecutors say they need Cruz to release the evidence, which is something Cruz says he cannot do.
I understand that Cruz and Brown want to see justice done, for the sake of the victims. They are both genuine rule of law stalwarts, and we need more like them, and I applaud their interest in this case. But it’s time to concede that justice is more likely going to be served by helping the Ecuadorans prosecute Guaman.
At this point it would be more constructive to make a deal with the Ecuadorans for assurances that, in exchange for Cruz’s cooperation, the government of Ecuador will, for starters:
1. Move swiftly to issue travel documents and otherwise expedite the process for Ecuadorans we are removing from the United States;
2. Start telling Ecuadorans who are living here illegally that this is a bad idea and if they commit crimes, including driving drunk or without a license, identity fraud, or any violation of U.S. law, then they will have to suffer the consequences, including deportation;
3. Refrain from injecting themselves into discussions of how U.S. immigration laws will be enforced, or how local governments can deter illegal settlement;
4. Since most illegal aliens from Ecuador cross over the land border via Mexico, they could work with the government of Mexico to interrupt this process.
If Ecuador fails to live up to its part of the bargain, then it is time to start talking about restrictions on visas and foreign assistance.