Menendez: Staff didn't know that intern was illegal immigrant, sex offender

WASHINGTON (AP) — New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez says his staff had no way of knowing that an 18-year-old intern from Peru was in the country illegally -- and no way to know he was a registered sex offender.

He tells MSNBC that once the staff in New Jersey found that out, the intern was let go.

The Associated Press has learned that Luis Sanchez Zavaleta was employed as an unpaid intern in the Senate office of the Democratic senator -- who is an advocate of pro-immigration policies.

And a U.S. official involved in the case says the Homeland Security Department instructed federal agents not to arrest him until after Election Day.

A spokesman for the Homeland Security Department says the AP's report is "categorically false," though he didn't specify what information is false. The spokesman also says Immigration and Customs Enforcement followed standard procedures working with local prosecutors before taking "appropriate enforcement action."

Two federal officials say Sanchez was arrested in front of his home in New Jersey a week ago.

Menendez says he learned about the case from the AP's reporting, and knew nothing about whether DHS had delayed the arrest. He says the arrest shows the need for comprehensive immigration reform that brings illegal immigrants out of the shadows.

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APPHOTO WX103: FILE - This Sept. 27, 2012 file photo shows Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. speaking in Sayreville, N.J. Menendez employed as an unpaid intern in his Senate office an illegal immigrant and registered sex offender who has now been arrested by immigration authorities, The Associated Press has learned. The Homeland Security Department instructed federal agents to wait weeks and not to arrest him until after Election Day, a U.S. official involved in the case told the AP. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File) (27 Sep 2012)

<<APPHOTO WX103 (09/27/12)>>

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