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Virginia Murder-Suicide Suspect Never Should Have Been Here

It’s far past time we get serious about immigration and crime.

Jose Angel Iraheta Palacios (Manassas City Police Department)

My hometown of Herndon was rocked recently by a tragic apparent murder-suicide. A mother and her two young children were killed, and shortly thereafter a man who had a personal relationship with the woman jumped off a nearby parking garage to his death. He was not the father of the children.

But now, Fox News reports new details about the suspected killer:

A man in Virginia suspected of murdering his girlfriend and her two children before jumping to his death was a convicted MS-13 gang member who had been living in the U.S. illegally, according to a report.

Records obtained by Fox 5 DC show that 37-year-old Jose Iraheta Palacios – nicknamed “Little Crazy” – pleaded guilty in Fairfax County Circuit Court in 2015 to human trafficking, gang recruitment of a juvenile and three counts of gang participation and was sentenced to nine years.

That sentence would have kept him behind bars until 2024 – but a judge suspended seven years. Iraheta Palacios served two years in state prison and was deported – though later made it back into the U.S.

I have very little patience for the narrative that cruelty lies on the “restriction” side of immigration and crime debates. Cases like this hit close to home, literally. Jose Palacios never should have been in my hometown, never should have been out of jail, and a woman and her two young children should still be alive today—one of them preparing to enroll this Fall in the same middle school I attended.

It’s worth noting that Herndon has long had a sizable Salvadoran community. The town made national headlines in 2007 by opening a town-funded day laborer center which catered to both legal and illegal immigrants. The center was closed after two years, in part due to community backlash. The episode harkens back to a time in which a much more humane immigration debate was possible, one in which there was enough common ground that we could weigh the competing goods of assimilation, compassion, and the rule of law.

It’s hard to imagine similar debate happening today. The town has transformed in the 14 years since. An indication of this can be seen in the ethnic make-up of Herndon High School, my alma mater: When I entered high school in 2006, the Herndon student body was 18% Hispanic. In 2021, it is nearly 50% Hispanic.

This rate and volume of immigration isn’t good for anyone, immigrant or native-born. A society that cannot or will not enforce the rule of law is one in serious trouble. As existing authorities become increasingly incapable of knowing who is living in their community, the community itself, incapable of assimilating new arrivals, will bifurcate along ethnic lines. And as history shows, parallel societies that purportedly share the same government are never a recipe for success.

All of which brings us back to the tragedy that occurred a few weeks back: It never should have happened. To prevent this from happening again, to Americans and immigrants to our country alike, it’s far past time we get serious about keeping American communities both American and safe.

about the author

Emile Doak is the executive director of the American Ideas Institute, which publishes The American Conservative.  He is a graduate of Georgetown University, where he studied political philosophy and theology, and previously worked in education before returning to the field of his studies.  His writing has appeared in First Things, Front Porch Republic, Crisis Magazine, and elsewhere. A proud native of Herndon, Virginia, Emile and his wife live in the historic district of their hometown with their two daughters.

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