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The accused murderer of a 19-year-old model and contestant on a popular reality show may have been in the country illegally after being granted relief from deportation as one of President Obama’s ‘dreamers’ under his ‘Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals’ amnesty program.

Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mirjana Puhar and two others who were with her at the time of the shooting, as well as a fourth, possibly unrelated murder. Puhar was a contestant on ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and herself an immigrant. She came with her parents from Serbia in 2000 when she was four-years-old.

North Carolina authorities believe the 19-year-old Rangel-Hernandez had applied for ‘dreamer’ status under DACA, the president’s amnesty program for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The program also provides benefits to so-called ‘dreamers.’ Rangel-Hernandez was a known member of a gang, which should have barred him from claiming ‘dreamer’ status and required his deportation.

Obama created the deferred deportation program by executive action during the run-up to the November 2012 election, bypassing Congress, which has authority over immigration and naturalization laws.

The legal status of the accused killer came under question as Congress debated whether to continue funding the president’s amnesty program as part of the budget for the Department of Homeland Security. Last week, a House subcommittee heard emotional testimony from the families of victims who had lost their lives at the hands of ‘dreamers.’

House Republicans attempted to stop Obama’s DACA program by stripping it from the general funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, but voted Tuesday for a ‘clean’ funding bill after facing opposition in the Senate. Senate Democrats with the president’s support had threatened to force a partial shut down of the department rather than vote to defund the president’s amnesty program.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has contacted the Secretary of Homeland Services, Jeh Johnson, requesting confirmation of Rangel-Hernandez’s immigration status, along with any additional information the Department of Homeland Services has on file about Puhar’s suspected killer. Johnson has been asked to reply to Grassley by March 9, 2015.




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