EGG HARBOR CITY — A man charged with being an unlicensed driver when he ran over and killed a 7-year-old boy this month was also in the country illegally, immigration officials said.

Jorge Rodriguez-Saldana, 30, was charged with third-degree causing a fatal crash while being an unlicensed driver and was issued a motor vehicle summons for being an unlicensed driver after the July 10 crash on White Horse Pike.

The impact killed little Marco Yu and seriously injured his 71-year-old grandmother.

Because he was charged with a third-degree offense, Rodriguez-Saldana was released from custody.

Officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement this week criticized authorities in Atlantic County for releasing the Mexican national without informing federal immigration officials.

Rodriguez-Saldana was later arrested July 13 in Horsham, Pennsylvania, by ICE officers. The ICE office in Newark said Rodriguez-Saldana came to their attention through biometric data.

“As is typical in many arrests, biometric hits occur based on the fingerprint-based biometric data submitted during bookings by state and local law enforcement agencies to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for criminal background checks," the office said Thursday in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office, which had announced the charges against Rodriguez-Saldana, declined to explain why authorities had not informed ICE or whether the court would have considered his immigration status in determining whether he should be released before trial.

John Tsoukaris, field office director for the ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in Newark, said this incident illustrates the "significant public safety concerns" with the state Attorney General's Office directive limiting law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

“Had it not been for the persistent, courageous and diligent efforts of ICE-ERO to track him down, this individual might have fled," Tsoukaris said this week in a statement. "We will continue to make public safety our highest priority despite dangerous state policies.”

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has said that the directive does not restrict police from cooperating with federal officials on criminal investigations.

This is the latest recent example of a criminal suspect in New Jersey being in the country illegally.

The man charged with kidnapping, raping and killing a Jersey City jogger in March had been previously deported from the United States at least two times.

In February, ICE arrested a West New York resident who was wanted in Guatamala on domestic violence charges. He had previously been deported.

Last year, a man who had been deported to El Salvador was found guilty of stabbing a man to death after he had returned to Elizabeth.

In 2017, a man who had been deported several times was charged with kidnapping and raping his ex-girlfriend in front of her 2-year-old child in New Jersey. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Statistics that measure crime rates among immigrants who lack legal status are limited and conflicting, but an analysis of available data last year by FactCheck.org concluded that "the available research that estimates the relationship between illegal immigration and crime generally shows an association with lower crime rates."

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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