An illegal immigrant mother arrested for attempting to pay a hitman to kill witnesses involved in her son’s murder trial was previously detained by federal authorities but later released, immigration officials confirmed to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Josefina Cardona-Cardona, an illegal migrant from Guatemala, was arrested on Monday after allegedly agreeing to pay an undercover agent to kill two cooperating witnesses in her son’s fatal stabbing case in Palm Beach County, Florida. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) confirmed to the Daily Caller News Foundation that Cardona-Cardona entered the U.S. unlawfully and was taken into the agency’s custody in 2019, but was later released and referred to a program intended to monitor migrants waiting for their court dates.

The Guatemalan migrant seemingly did not comply with the program and skipped out on her immigration hearing.

“Josefina Cardona-Cardona, is an unlawfully present non-citizen from Guatemala, who entered the country illegally on an unknown date and location without admission or parole,” an ICE spokesperson said to the DCNF. The agency confirmed that Cardona-Cardona was arrested by Border Patrol on April 4, 2019, and then transferred into Enforcement and Removal Operations custody on April 8, 2019.

However, she did not remain in the agency’s physical custody for long.

“[She was] subsequently released on an Order of Recognizance and was required that she enroll in and comply with the Alternatives to Detention program,” the ICE spokesperson stated. An immigration judge in Miami, Florida, ordered Cardona-Cardona to be removed from the U.S. in absentia, meaning she never showed up to her immigration hearing, the spokesperson added.

Cardona-Cardona was arrested by Palm Beach County law enforcement on Monday after she allegedly agreed to pay an undercover agent, whom she thought was a hitman, to kill two cooperating witnesses in her teenage son’s murder trial. She offered to pay $4,000 for each hit, according to the arrest report.

Her son, Manuel Marcos Cardona, was at a five-year-old’s birthday party in June 2022 when a fight broke out. An individual stepped in to break up the fight, but then Marcos Cardona stabbed him five times, with the victim succumbing to his wounds the following day.

Marcos Cardona — who was 14 years old at the time of crime, but charged as an adult — was subsequently handed a 15-year prison sentence after agreeing to a plea deal.

ICE confirmed to the DCNF that their Enforcement and Removal Operations division has since lodged a detainer for Cardona-Cardona. She is currently being held in a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office detention center, and local officials said she is subject to deportation following the completion of her prosecution.

The discovery of Cardona-Cardona’s referral into Alternatives to Detention (ATD) marks the latest blemish in what has become a controversial program.

Established in 2004, the ATD program allows migrants to move freely in the country and avoid physical detention while they await their immigration court dates. This is done by using GPS monitoring, phone applications or other forms of tracking services to remain aware of their whereabouts.

As the current border crisis rages on, participation in the program has increased, with hundreds of thousands of migrants enrolled in the program, according to ICE. However, a previous DCNF investigation found the Biden administration has increased its reliance on a phone application that only tracks the location of an illegal immigrant at specific times, in lieu of relying on GPS monitoring, which can track them most or even all of the time.

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