Man removed from the U.S. at least 10 times gets prison for another illegal reentry

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - A convicted felon booted from the United States at least 10 times is heading to prison after Border Patrol agents nabbed him outside a northern Michigan gas station in January.

Eliud Cruz-Chavez, a citizen of Mexico, was sentenced Tuesday, June 13 to 2¼ years in federal prison for alien felon reentry.

He’s been deported to Mexico numerous times since 2006, sometimes within the span of only a few months.

“Mr. Cruz-Chavez meant no harm to anyone by returning’’ to the U.S., defense attorney Sharon Turek wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “He only wanted to earn money to support his family.’’

Related: Feds nab 30 people for immigration violations in West Michigan since November

U.S. District Court Judge Janet T. Neff sentenced Cruz-Chavez at the high end of guidelines, which called for a prison term of between 21 and 27 months.

Once he gets out of prison, Cruz-Chavez will most likely be sent back to Mexico, Turek wrote.

“When he returns to Mexico, he knows he must make his living there,’’ Turek wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “He understands that in the future, it would be better for him to remain in Mexico and earn what he can rather than come to the United States and risk incarceration.’’

His most recent encounter with authorities took place Jan. 12 outside a gas station at U.S. 131 and M-32 in northern Michigan’s Antrim County.

He was a passenger in a 2008 Chevy Silvrado bearing a Tennessee license plate that stopped for fuel when two marked Border Patrol vehicles pulled into the gas station. “The occupants of the truck then appeared to react to their presence by pulling away from the gas pump without getting gas or exiting the vehicle,’’ according to a criminal complaint.

Agents approached the vehicle and talked with the occupants, who matched physical descriptions and photographs obtained through immigration records checks, court records show. Agents talked with Cruz-Chavez, who "freely stated that he was a citizen and national of Mexico who was not in possession of any U.S. immigration document that would allow him to stay, to work or to live in the U.S. legally,'' according to the criminal complaint.

Cruz-Chavez was arrested after it was determined he was in the United States unlawfully. A background check indicated Cruz-Chavez was a citizen of Mexico who received 10 prior removals from the U.S., seven of which were after his conviction of a felony offense, court records show.

His prior convictions include possession of more than 50 pounds of marijuana. He’s been locked up several times in Texas for illegal reentry.

Cruz-Chavez, 32, comes from a family of five children and had to work in the fields to support his family, according to a sentencing memorandum.

“Because of his family’s poor financial situation, he came to the United States to find enough work to support his entire family,’’ Turek wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

He entered the country legally on a visa, but was arrested for an alcohol offense at the age of 20. The 2005 arrest led to his removal the following year for overstaying his visa, court records show.

“He states that his family’s dire financial condition was his motivation to return to the United States on so many occasions,’’ Turek wrote.

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