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Murder of Rachel Morin sparks outrage among Maryland leaders over immigration policies

Maryland leaders outraged by immigration policy after Rachel Morin's murder
Maryland leaders outraged by immigration policy after Rachel Morin's murder 03:32

BALTIMORE -- The murder of Maryland mom Rachel Morin has raised concerns about U.S. immigration policies after law enforcement said the suspect in her killing, 23-year-old Victor Hernandez Martinez, crossed into the country illegally from El Salvador.

Martinez Hernandez will soon be extradited to Maryland from where he was captured in Tulsa, Oklahoma to face charges for Morin's rape and murder.  

Morin, a mother of five, was found dead off the Ma & Pa Trail in Harford County in August 2023. After a 10-month nationwide manhunt, the murder suspect was arrested at a bar in Oklahoma.

"We've got to stop this"

The Harford County Sheriff and County Executive told WJZ it shows our borders are too open. 

Authorities say Martinez Hernandez had gang ties and entered the United States as a fugitive - fleeing El Salvador after killing a woman there, and later attacking a 9-year-old girl in Los Angeles. 

"We haven't had a good immigration policy," Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said. "We need to weed out those people who want to come here and offer to our community a better life for themselves but also be a part of our wonderful country—from the criminals who want to hide amongst those good people, come here and do harm—as was the case in Rachel's case."

Harford County Executive Bob Cassilly demanded major improvements to the U.S. immigration policies.

"This crazy immigration policy is really evil and allowed this terrible guy to come in here and destroy this for so many people and especially the Morin family. We've got to stop this," Cassilly said. "We've got to reverse the idiocy that is our current border policies. Start by catching the criminals. We can't possibly police this country with a totally porous border on our southern end."

Immigration and presidential race

Rachel Morin's murder has become an issue in the presidential race—with former President Trump blaming President Biden. 

The Biden Administration blamed Congress for its inaction.

"We want to see a balanced approach. We want to see a bipartisan approach, but Congress has failed to act. They just have," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at her daily briefing Tuesday, speaking about the need for immigration reform.

"This is just incredible. An individual from another country came in and killed an American. This was completely preventable," said the Morin family's lawyer Randolph Rice. 

Rice also said, "America is hemorrhaging at the southern border and the officials in Washington keep arguing over which kind of tourniquet to use. They just can't seem to figure out how to fix this problem—and had they gotten ahead of this and fixed this problem before, Rachel would be alive today and so many other Americans. This is not a Republican or Democrat problem. This is an American problem."

WJZ reached out to CASA, an advocacy group for immigrants, but they were unavailable to speak about the issue Tuesday.

Remembering Kayla Hamilton

Morin's murder is the second recent killing by an undocumented migrant in Harford County. 

The year before Morin was attacked, authorities say a 17-year-old from El Salvador with ties to the MS-13 gang killed 20-year-old Kayla Hamilton, who was autistic, in Aberdeen in 2022. 

Her mother sued the federal government for allowing him into the United States and has testified several times before Congress.

"For me, this is not a political issue. This is a safety issue for everyone living in the United States. This could've been anyone's daughter," said Hamilton's mother Tammy Nobles while speaking before a House committee in May of last year.

Governor frustrated by policies

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore expressed frustration over immigration policies and lawmakers' inaction on Face The Nation on CBS News.

"My heart is, is broken for the Morin family, as is our entire state.  She should still be here and, and the sheriff is absolutely right." Moore said. "I mean - we have an immigration policy that needed to have been dealt with and was not. And the consequences then fall on us as the chief executives of our states, the consequences fall on us as the leaders of our individualized jurisdictions."

More tips needed

Police are still asking for tips and working to determine whether her suspected killer may be behind any other crimes as he crisscrossed the country. 

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