An undocumented immigrant who came forward to help police solve a high-profile murder is being rewarded for his bravery by being deported.
Police informant Charbel Chehoud finds himself behind bars and may be sent back to Lebanon as early as tomorrow:
Currently being held at the Essex County Jail, Chaoud says federal immigration authorities ignored recommendations by New Jersey police and prosecutors that he be allowed to stay in the United States.
Chaoud, who fears for his life if forced to return to Lebanon, has resisted five previous attempts at deportation. In July 2011 his brother was killed in a suspicious auto-pedestrian accident in Beirut. [...]
According to a recent article in the NY Daily News, the murder of Michael Augulis in 1999 would have gone unsolved if it weren’t for Chehoud’s aid to law enforcement officials. Originally called an accidental drowning in Sandy Hook Bay, Chehoud told police that two men in a fishing boat had thrown Augulis overboard, knowing he couldn’t swim. New Jersey State Police later arrested the two men, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Chehoud’s fiancee, an American citizen from Jersey City, is leading a last-ditch effort to help him remain in the U.S. Her campaign on Change.org has already received over 6,000 signatures.
She points out that if her fiancee were released from detention, they would be free to marry, which would allow Chehoud to apply for legal permanent resident status and remain in the country.
New Jersey police and prosecutors have pleaded Chehoud’s case, telling federal immigration officials that he was so critical to solving the case that he should be allowed to stay, not punished for coming forward.
Undocumented immigrants often avoid reporting crimes against themselves or others precisely because they fear exposing themselves to law enforcement officials. Chehoud’s treatment is likely to solidify that impression and discourage the undocumented from seeking out help when they need it. Local police officials have testified that the deportation program Secure Communities has eroded the trust between them and immigrant communities and jeopardized public safety.