Venezuelan migrant arrested 3 times since arriving in Chicago 3 weeks ago: prosecutors

CHICAGO — A Venezuelan migrant has been arrested three times since he arrived in Chicago three weeks ago, authorities said Tuesday as he appeared in felony bond court on a retail theft charge.

And while city officials try to figure out how to handle the steady flow of migrants, Tuesday’s hearing aimed a spotlight on another issue: Authorities may not know who some of the migrants are.

Anduesa Cormena, 34, and Yeiber Colmenarez, 22, were arrested Monday at Macy’s, 111 North State, after they tried to steal hundreds of dollars worth of clothing, Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Sorrentino told Judge Maryam Ahmad during the court session. 

Left to right: The man officials have identified as Anduesa Cormena, Daniel Jose Garcia, and Danny Garcia Briceno is seen in Chicago Police Department mugshots from April 27, 2023, May 4, 2023, and May 8, 2023. | Chicago Police Department

The duo stuffed the clothing into Macy’s shopping bags and tried to walk out, Sorrentino said, with Cormena allegedly stealing goods worth $725 and Colmenarez allegedly taking $651 in merchandise. Each is charged with one count of felony retail theft.

After Sorrentino explained the state’s allegations, the hearing moved to the usual next step: a look at the accused’s backgrounds. But the next few minutes were anything but ordinary.

Sorrentino noted that both men are from Venezuela, and, it was revealed, they are staying at the migrant shelter inside the former Wadsworth Elementary School, 6650 South Ellis, in Woodlawn.

And Assistant Public Defender Catherine Stockslager told the judge that Cormena told her colleagues his name is Daniel Jose Garcia. He didn’t know why Chicago police identified him by the other name, she said.

Colmenarez, she said, previously lived in Phoenix, but he arrived here recently as part of the migrant relocations.

Neither man can work because of their immigration status, Stockslager explained.

Ahmad demanded to know how long the men had been in Chicago and their criminal histories since arriving here.

“Here’s where I’m going with this, just so we’re clear,” Ahmad told Sorrentino, the prosecutor. “These are individuals who’ve not been in the country very long. You’re now telling me that they were arrested at Macy’s, committing a felony retail theft. So the court wants some idea of who is in front of me. Additionally, as the public defender just indicated, one person has already indicated he’s using another name. So, who are these people? Who are these individuals?”

After taking a timeout, another prosecutor returned with the information Ahmad wanted.

Yeiber Colmenarez has not been arrested since arriving in Chicago, Assistant State’s Attorney Sarah Dale-Schmidt told the judge. But he does have “a February 25, 2023, matter for alien inadmissibility” with the U.S. Border Patrol.

But she had a different story about Anduesa Cormena. Dale-Schmidt said he had been arrested and charged with two misdemeanors since arriving here three weeks ago.

“Misdemeanors here in Chicago?” the judge asked.

“Yes, your honor.”

On April 27, he was charged with misdemeanor battery after hitting someone in the forehead during an argument at the shelter, according to Dale-Schmidt and CPD records. Last Thursday, he was arrested for retail theft at Nordstrom, 55 East Grand.

Cormena, or Daniel Jose Garcia, was identified as “Danny J. Briceno” in one of the CPD arrest reports and “Danny Garcia Briceno” in the other. He was released from the police station both times on recognizance bonds.

Expressing concern about the men’s background and lack of ties to Chicago, Ahmad ordered Colmenarez to pay a $1,500 bail deposit and Cormena to pay a $5,000 deposit to get out of jail on electronic monitoring.

Growing problem

CWBChicago first reported that Venezuelan migrants, including children, were sleeping on the floors of police station lobbies on April 3. Since then, city officials say, the flow of migrants has increased dramatically. Police now estimate that between 450 and 550 migrants are sleeping in police station lobbies because the city cannot find anywhere to put them.

Those numbers may be undercounts. CBS2 reported Tuesday evening that there are 70 families living at just one of the city’s CPD stations.

Migrant families sleep in the lobby of the Chicago Police Department’s Morgan Park (22nd) District station. | Provided

On Tuesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a state of emergency as the city struggles to find resources and money to assist arriving migrants.

“We should all understand that this crisis will likely deepen before we see it get better,” Lightfoot said Tuesday.

On Monday, Sgt. James Calvino, president of the Chicago Police Sergeants’ Association, published an open letter expressing concern about the families living in the city’s police stations. Here’s what he wrote:

Good afternoon,

I would like to draw your attention to the critical issue of people being housed in Chicago Police District stations. The situation has increased exponentially; families are remaining in stations for days and, sometimes weeks at a time.

Police District stations are not equipped to handle a situation like this. If a Police Officer was to walk into a home with the same conditions that exist in the stations, they would be forced to call DCFS and remove any/all children, due to the poor conditions.

There is no ability to store or prepare meals, bath or cleanse, or a proper place to sleep. Having to cleanse in a bathroom sink, having no ability to keep food refrigerated, and sleeping on hard cement-like floors, are inhumane living conditions. We pride ourselves on being both a welcoming City and a welcoming State.

How welcoming are the conditions I described?

The City calls the people migrants, asylum seekers, or unhoused, but no matter what title they are given, they are all human beings who deserve, at the very least, humane conditions to live in. Where do the children get to be children in a station? There is no place to play, run around, and just be a kid.

I do know there is currently a very large influx of people but it needs news coverage to bring the issue to the forefront. 

Without humanizing the issue, the City will be allowed to continue storing and treating people like they are a mere commodity. 

We need to change this; let’s force the City and State to truly be welcoming. 

In many of the Police Department’s General Orders, there is the statement “sanctity of human life” to show how above all else we are to hold sacred each person’s life. By housing persons in Police Districts, we are doing anything but showing the sanctity of human life. We are taking police resources that need to be used to address the violence in this City and are using them for something that needs to be addressed by other better-suited agencies.

Police Districts are where we bring and process arrestees, and often times those persons are bonded out from the stations. Not something children should be a part of.

I ask you to please continue to demand answers from the City and State officials who are allowing and condoning this treatment of our fellow human beings and for the practice of housing persons in Police District stations.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com