“Spoke to a person at the consulate four different times, never able to speak with Mamunur Rashid,” one agent wrote in a secret federal log that became public as part of a lawsuit.
US officials had seen stalling tactics from Bangladesh before: The impoverished Asian nation typically took several months to provide passports for criminals being deported last year — if they provided the documents at all, according to federal statistics.
Foreign countries are understandably reluctant to accept criminals, especially those such as Islam who were raised in the United States, and they have little incentive to do so since the United States rarely takes action against them, such as refusing to issue them visas.
State Department officials acknowledge that they try to avoid reaching the point of sanctions with nations like Bangladesh, but insist that they do apply diplomatic pressure.
“It is a matter we take very seriously, and consistently raise it at high levels with all countries where this is a concern,” said department spokesman Ken Chavez.
Hoping Bangladesh would clear Islam’s return, US immigration officials told Islam in April 2011 that they were going to continue to hold him even though more than six months had passed since Islam’s sexual abuse sentence ended. Islam responded with a lawsuit, charging that immigration could not continue to detain him because it was unlikely that Bangladesh would take him back. In the lawsuit, he pointedly noted that the consulate appeared to be dodging the immigration agent’s calls.
Islam’s lawsuit made public a host of immigration documents that are normally kept secret. The documents revealed both immigration officials’ concerns that Islam is dangerous and their frustrating attempts to contact the Bangladeshis.
But there is no evidence in the file that immigration officials requested an immigration court hearing to determine if they could continue to hold him as a threat to public safety.
Instead, the records show that on Oct. 3, 2011, immigration officials gave up and released Islam.
Seven weeks later, Islam was at Lois Decker’s door.
Everyone loved the retired school lunch lady, a friendly 73-year-old grandmother who taught Sunday school and lived her whole life in Hillsdale, N.Y., a rural hamlet just across the border from the Massachusetts line. Decker raised five children, but she lived alone in the house her daughter bought for her on Cold Water Street.
Sheriff’s deputies say they are unsure what drew Islam to Decker’s house that day, but family members said she had planned to rent out an apartment in the basement. Islam had a construction job in the Berkshires.
Hours after Islam visited Decker’s house, police arrested him in a traffic stop in a nearby city. He had stolen Decker’s white Hyundai, crashed it, and then tried to steal the truck of good Samaritans who had stopped to help him. He finally stole yet another truck, but did not get far. When police arrested him, he was spattered with blood, and had Decker’s credit card in the truck.
Sheriff’s deputies discovered a gruesome scene at Lois Decker’s house. The woman had been strangled, court records showed, and her face and throat were slashed. Officials found Islam’s semen on a sheet in the house, though officials did not find bodily evidence that Decker was sexually assaulted.
Columbia County officials were incensed and demanded to know why ICE had let such a dangerous person go free. They had convicted the high school dropout on sex abuse charges in 2008. Now he’s serving 20 years to life for Decker’s murder.
Paul Czajka, the silver-haired district attorney and a former judge in Columbia County, said immigration officials should have argued that Islam was dangerous enough to hold longer.
“He was a child abuser and registered sex offender, therefore by definition he was a danger to the community,” said Czajka. “It would not have been a difficult hearing to make that case.”
But ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein said the agency had little choice but to release criminals such as Islam and Chen because the courts have made it difficult to hold even mentally ill immigrants longer without new criminal charges against them.
“For this reason, the agency’s ability to utilize the continued detention of removable aliens . . . is extremely limited,” Feinstein said.
Lois Decker’s grieving relatives say they’ve been told very little about how Islam gained his release and was able to kill her. Until a Globe reporter contacted the family, they had no idea that Islam had filed a federal lawsuit to get out of jail.Continued...