Riverside, CA- A California jury has found a Guatemalan man guilty of lying on his immigration application and obtaining citizenship fraudulently. What makes this a unique case is the man who was found guilty participated in one of the most atrocious war crimes in the modern history of the Northern Hemisphere.
Lt. Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes was the man on trial and was the commanding officer of Guatemalan Army unit dispatched to the small village of Dos Erres in 1982. Their mission was to recover a weapons cache from guerillas, during the country’s turbulent civil war which raged throughout the 80s. What should have been a simple mission ended in massacre.
Acting upon the orders of their superiors the Guatemalan soldiers began to slaughter the 250 residents of the village. According to the Huffington Post, some of the soldiers raped the women while others systematically killed the men, women and children living in the village. Their bodies were thrown into a town well.
Sosa was one of the commanding officers who decided that after they found no weapons or no rebels the villagers should be killed. He along with other officers forced his troops to carry out the heinous murders.
During his trial, two of his former comrades testified about Sosa’s role in the war crime. One of those men, Gilberto Gilberto Jordán, pleaded guilty to immigration fraud in 2010, and recalled the events of that fateful day to the jury hearing Sosa’s case.
Over two decades later, as Sosa was seeking his American citizenship, he failed to mention his military affiliations and past crimes. Had American immigration officials know Sosa was involved in the Dos Erres massacre they most likely wouldn’t have approved his citizenship.
Sosa’s attorney, Shashi Kewalramani, argued that immigration officials knew his client was a soldier in the Guatemalan Army since that information was disclosed in a previously denied asylum application from 1985.
Kewalramani also chided federal prosecutors, reminding them that Sosa was on trial for immigration fraud and not for war crimes. He also argued that the immigration application was vague in regards to and Sosa said he was a member of the Guatemalan Army. It is likely that Sosa will be tried for the war crimes if he is deported to Guatemala.
Sosa is one of four men involved in the Dos Erres massacre to be apprehended by U.S. immigration officials. Gilberto Jordán is one of the men and will soon be deported to Guatemala where he will face trial. Another is being held as a material witness and the fourth has already been deported and convicted for the crimes in his native country.
This case was unique in that federal prosecutors were tasked with proving Sosa’s involvement in the war crime in order to convict him of the minor crime of immigration fraud. It was also the first time the 36- year civil war in Guatemala and the shocking slaughter was aired in an American Court.