I-Team: Immigration law allows some violent, repeat offenders to stay in Maine
PORTLAND, Maine (WGME) -- This month marks two years since a Westbrook High School graduate was gunned down inside a Portland recording studio.
Trey Arsenault, 19, was murdered by a man police say he didn't even know.
Gang Deng Majok is serving a 30-year prison sentence for that crime.
Majok was not a U.S. citizen and the victim's mother wants to know why the man who murdered her son wasn't deported long ago.
The I-Team investigates and discovers a complicated and confusing immigration system that allows some criminals to stay.
Majok, who goes by the street name “Bang Bang,” was convicted in March 2017 of murdering Trey in Portland's Old Port.
"I know the shots he sustained, and he just suffered, and they tried in surgery to save his life and they just couldn't. They told me that he was gone," Trey's mother Nancy Arsenault told us.
Gripped by grief, Arsenault says it shouldn't have happened because she believes the man who murdered her son shouldn't have even been in the country.
"I was mortified that someone of this nature wasn't already in jail or deported," Arsenault said.
During sentencing, the judge said Majok is not a U.S. citizen.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement couldn't give us any more details about Majok's immigration status.
"I'm really sorry for my actions," Majok said during sentencing.
In a previous interview with CBS 13, Majok's mother told us she brought her son to Portland from Sudan in 2002.
"We don’t come here to get involved in the bad things and crimes; we don't like it," Juer Diing said.
An I-Team investigation found a pile of criminal cases against Majok going back more than a decade.
His first conviction was for an assault in 2006.
He was also found guilty of 10 other charges before the murder.
"You clearly don't deserve to be here because you're just committing crimes. I just don't understand why there aren't laws in place to prevent things like this from happening," Arsenault said.
We brought that question to Portland immigration attorneys Cynthia Arn and Marcus Jaynes.
"It's incredibly complicated," Arn said.
They say it appears, based on current immigration law, any charges that could have made Majok eligible for deportation -- before the murder -- were dismissed -- including drug trafficking charges.
Majok was also charged with domestic violence and criminal mischief involving his ex-girlfriend.
In that case, according to a police report, she told police that Majok was stalking her, banging on her door and yelling "I will kill you, expletive ... I'm going to kidnap your kids."
The charges were dismissed after Majok pleaded guilty to assault in connection with another case.
"They were all misdemeanors," Arn said.
According to the Department of Justice, right now only aggravated felonies and crimes of moral turpitude are grounds for deportation.
"It basically means crimes that require a bad intent," Arn explained.
Arn and Jaynes said depending on the prosecutor, there can be sympathy within the criminal justice system especially in cases involving refugees and asylum seekers.
"They don't necessarily need to have the further punishment of being removed from the place they call home or from their family and be deported," Jaynes said.
Records from the Bureau of Prisons show 22% of federal inmates are not U.S. citizens.
The Maine Department of Corrections couldn't provide similar data, but Arsenault said she doesn't need statistics.
"You need to go. If you're caught with drugs, if you have a gun, being violent, hurting people, you don't belong here," she said.
We wanted to talk with Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson about her decisions to dismiss charges against Majok, but a spokeswoman for her office said the district attorney "would not be able to provide comment on this issue."
Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney told us in most cases, she would not consider what happens after a conviction.
"Whatever the immigration consequences are whatever they are. I'm not part of that, but I'm certainly not going to treat that case differently," Maloney said.
State Rep. Larry Lockman (R-Amherst) said he's sickened by the Majok case and would like to see tougher immigration laws.
"If you're not a U.S. citizen, you're here as our guest and you better be on your best behavior. One strike, you're out," he said.
He introduced a bill that would require Maine prosecutors and police to work more closely with federal agencies on immigration issues and enforcement or risk losing state funding.
A large crowd protested the proposal last month before a public hearing.
"Asking local law enforcement to become immigration officials is a terrible diversion of resources and expertise," said Alison Beyea with the ACLU of Maine.
Nancy Arsenault says she supports immigrants.
"That's what makes our country so beautiful; we need to help other people," she said.
She'll also support tougher immigration laws, in honor of the son she lost.
"Knowing what happened to him is heartbreaking because it never should have happened," she said.
Majok recently pleaded guilty to two other felonies elevated aggravated assault, for shooting a man in the back outside a bar, and aggravated drug trafficking in York County.
The judge in the Majok case said Majok will be deported to Sudan when he's released from prison after serving his 30-year sentence in Maine.
The U.S. Department of Justice told us the list of crimes requiring deportation is "outdated and is pending revision."