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Menendez: Staff didn't know that intern was illegal immigrant, sex offender

5:54 PM, Dec 12, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (AP) - New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez says his staff had no way of knowing that an 18-year-old intern from Peru was in the country illegally -- and no way to know he was a registered sex offender.

He tells MSNBC that once the staff in New Jersey found that out, the intern was let go.

The Associated Press has learned that Luis Sanchez Zavaleta was employed as an unpaid intern in the Senate office of the Democratic senator -- who is an advocate of pro-immigration policies.

And a U.S. official involved in the case says the Homeland Security Department instructed federal agents not to arrest him until after Election Day.

A spokesman for the Homeland Security Department says the AP's report is "categorically false," though he didn't specify what information is false. The spokesman also says Immigration and Customs Enforcement followed standard procedures working with local prosecutors before taking "appropriate enforcement action."

Two federal officials say Sanchez was arrested in front of his home in New Jersey a week ago.

Menendez says he learned about the case from the AP's reporting, and knew nothing about whether DHS had delayed the arrest. He says the arrest shows the need for comprehensive immigration reform that brings illegal immigrants out of the shadows.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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