Fact Check

Was Joshua Wilkerson Murdered by a DACA Beneficiary?

A tragic death which was nonetheless unrelated to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.

Published Jan. 7, 2019

Joshua Wilkerson was murdered by an immigrant who was staying in the U.S. due to the DACA policy.
What's True

Hermilo Moralez was in the U.S. illegally when he murdered Joshua Wilkerson in November 2010.

What's False

Moralez had not been allowed to remain in the U.S. at the time of the murder due to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy.

One idea that has consistently been floated during debates over President Donald Trump's proposed border wall is for Congress to approve funding for the project in exchange for a permanent deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy. That proposal hasn't sat well with some of Trump's supporters, however, who believe that the wall should be built without any deal on DACA.

In January 2019, as a government shutdown over a funding dispute for President Trump's border wall stretched into its second week, an image graphic supposedly showing an 19-year-old DACA beneficiary named Hermilo Moralez and the young man he killed, 18-year-old Joshua Wilkerson, was spread again on social media.

When this image was posted to "The_Donald," a section of Reddit dedicated to President Trump's fans, it was shared with the caption: "Fuck DACA! Finish the damned WALL!"

This meme is partly accurate in that Joshua Wilkerson was murdered by his classmate Hermilo Moralez in Pearland, Texas, in November 2010:

... 18-year-old Joshua Wilkerson was beaten and killed by a classmate from his high school in Pearland, Texas. His body was found in a wooded area, partially burned and with his hands and feet bound.

His killer: Hermilo Moralez, an undocumented immigrant from Belize, brought to the U.S. by his parents as a child.

However, although Moralez was not in the U.S. legally, neither was he a beneficiary of the DACA policy.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy allows individuals who were brought to the United States illegally as children and who meet certain requirements to delay deportation by two years and to be eligible for work permits. This policy was initially announced in June 2012, nearly two years after Joshua Wilkerson's murder:

On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status.

Hermilo Moralez could not have been a DACA beneficiary because that policy did not exist at the time of his arrest. And Moralez, who was sentenced to life in prison, would not have been eligible for DACA status after that policy was implemented, as it is not open to illegal immigrants who have been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors.


Hesson, Ted.   "Is Fear of Immigrant Criminals Overblown?"     ABC News.   15 July 2013.

Preston, Julia.   "Obama to Permit Young Migrants to Remain in U.S."     The New York Times.   15 June 2012.

Christian, Carol.   "21-Year-Old Immigrant Convicted in Beating Death of Former Pearland Classmate."     Houston Chronicle.   29 January 2013.

Hesson, Ted.   "Trump Ponders National Emergency to Build Border Wall."     Politico.   7 January 2019.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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