Sep. 06, 2023

As the grandson of immigrants from Ireland, Hungary and Italy, I readily acknowledge the benefits of legal entry into this country. But when I see thousands illegally entering our country every day, I am angered when one of those individuals goes on a murderous crime spree and disrupts the lives of those in our community. 

Late last week, Danelo Cavalcante, a former street gang member from Brazil, escaped the Chester County Prison. Cavalcante originally came to our country illegally after fleeing Brazil to Puerto Rico following the 2017 killing of a man who owed him money. (Associated Press, 9/1/23).

While here, Cavalcante met Deborah Brandao, who would eventually file a restraining order against him for being violent toward her and her children. When Brandao allegedly told Cavalcante she would tell police about the Brazilian arrest warrant, he stabbed her 37 times in the stomach, abdomen and chest, killing her in front of her children. (Reading Eagle, 9/2/23).

Cavalcante was found guilty for Brandao’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole for her 2021 stabbing death. He was serving time at the Chester County Prison while awaiting transfer to a state-run facility when he escaped a few short days ago. 

Now, our local, state and federal law enforcement officials are in the throes of a manhunt. Residents are being asked to shelter in place, businesses are closed, as are school districts within the search radius. The disruption that Cavalcante has caused was preventable.

The simple truth is this – he never should have been here. The horrific failure on the part of the federal government in Washington, D.C., to secure our borders, ports and other points of entry ended in the murder of Deborah Brandao and the ensuing terror inflicted on all of us.

The federal government has a responsibility to enforce the rule of law and work to guarantee our public safety. Period. Our current failed immigration policy is not only dramatically placing the public at risk, but it is substantially draining resources that could be deployed to help those with legitimate needs.

As a long-time member of the PA State House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, and now a committee chairman, we are involved in a plethora of oversights in the public safety arena, including fire, EMS and our 911 system. Government’s number one job is to protect its citizens and make sure our citizens are secure in their persons and effects. Citizens of the Commonwealth are being violated by the very federal government that is obligated to protect their safety. The failure of Washington on the immigration issue is now a front page story in the small towns of Pennsylvania.

Since our current border policy shows a wanton disregard for public safety, it has left the public wondering who will be the next victim of an individual who has unlawfully gained passage into our country and has demonstrated pure evil and a willingness to kill.

I don’t think it is a stretch to say Deborah Brandao would still be alive today if Cavalcante never entered this country illegally. She would be here, and her children would have their mother. 

Literally millions of Pennsylvanians have had their lives thrown into chaos out of fear that they could be the next victim of this murderer’s rampage.

I am grateful to all our local, state and federal law enforcement officers who have always and will continually display a willingness to pay the ultimate price, if need be, to protect the public they are sworn to serve. 

The rule of law is not being enforced when it comes to immigration, and these are the tragic results of that failure. It is time for a dramatic policy.

Representative Mark Gillen
128th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Melissa Fox
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