Brad Weber–Staff Writer
While some argue that the topic of immigration is most pertinent to southwestern states, it has effects even in Sioux County. Consider the case of Rigoberto Gonzalez-Constantino, a 36-year-old Mexican citizen illegally residing in Boyden, Iowa. Gonzalez-Constantino was convicted on Jan. 31, 2018 of indecent contact with a child. His current location is unknown to authorities, and he is one of Sioux County’s most wanted, facing jail time, sex-offender status and deportation.
Gonzalez-Constantino’s criminal history in Sioux County began with an arrest on June 30, 2015, for domestic abuse. Approximately a month later, Gonzalez-Constantino pled guilty to the charge and was ordered to complete a domestic abuse program by District Judge Robert Dull. Gonzalez-Constantino was not deported at this time, despite domestic violence falling under the Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement priorities.
On Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, police arrested Gonzalez-Constantino after an incident in which he groped an eleven-year-old girl. He was charged with indecent contact with a child and released on $2,000 bond after his bond hearing on Jan. 16, 2018. The bond hearing was overseen by judicial magistrate Dan Pluim. Per Iowa Code 811.2, Pluim believed this $2,000 bond would reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant.
This short period in a county jail would not have given Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sufficient time to issue a detainer request, according to the ICE public affairs officer Shawn Neudauer. Even if ICE had issued a detainer request, the policy of the Sioux County Sheriff’s office was, at the time, to not honor ICE requests to hold suspected illegal immigrants. It was only with the recent passage of S.F. 481 in Iowa, which mandated compliance with ICE detainer requests, that the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office changed its procedures.
Despite the low bond amount, Gonzalez-Constantino appeared at his trial, and was found guilty on Jan. 31, 2018. At the conclusion of the trial, prosecutor and Assistant Sioux County Attorney Tyler Grevengoed requested that Gonzalez-Constantino be held in custody until his sentencing date of Feb. 16, 2018. According to Grevengoed, he believed both the conviction and the immigration status of Gonzalez-Constantino increased the risk of flight. Presiding judge John Ackerman presumably did not agree with this assessment, and allowed Gonzalez-Constantino to remain free on $2,000 bond.
The fears of Grevengoed were confirmed on Feb. 16 when Gonzalez-Constantino failed to appear for sentencing. The hearing proceeded without Gonzalez-Constantino present and he was sentenced to two years in prison, as well as being added to the sex-offender registry. Because Gonzalez-Constantino was not present for sentencing, a felony warrant was issued for “failure to appear” and he was added to Sioux County’s most wanted list.
As of publication, Rigoberto Gonzalez-Constantino, a registered sex-offender illegally residing within the United States, is still at large. While it may seem that the matter is in the hand of the police, Judge Robert Dull has pursued further judicial action. On Apr. 6, 2018, he filed another arrest warrant in relation to the indecent contact with a child charge, as well as an arrest warrant related to violating orders on Gonzalez-Constantino’s domestic abuse charge in 2015.
This example of an illegal immigrant committing a crime is reminiscent of the nationally publicized case of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who killed Kathryn Steinle. The majority of illegal immigrants are not violent offenders, but the national debate on immigration may affect how violent immigrants are handled.