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Enforcement and Removal
09/26/2019

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Acting ICE director calls out jurisdictions with sanctuary policies for threatening public safety

Acting ICE director calls out jurisdictions with sanctuary policies for threatening public safety

WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Matthew T. Albence held a White House press briefing Thursday to explain how sanctuary policies threaten public safety and called on the public to hold their local lawmakers accountable. The briefing made clear that local jurisdictions across the U.S. that refuse to cooperate with ICE are complicit in the crimes committed by aliens who ICE could have otherwise been arrested and removed.

Under federal law, ICE has the authority to lodge immigration detainers with law enforcement partners who have custody of individuals arrested on criminal charges and who ICE has probable cause to believe are removable aliens. The detainer form asks the other law enforcement agency to notify ICE in advance of release and to maintain custody of the alien for a brief period so that ICE can take custody of that person in a safe and secure setting upon release from that agency’s custody. Across the United States, several jurisdictions refuse to honor detainers and instead choose to willingly release criminal offenders back into their local communities where they are free to offend.

Acting Director Albence made clear that state and local jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement not only betray their duty to protect public safety, but force ICE to be more visible in those areas.

“As law enforcement professionals, it is frustrating to see senseless acts of violence and other criminal activity happen in our communities, knowing ICE could have prevented them with just a little cooperation,” said Albence. “To the public, who want to live and raise your families in safe neighborhoods, we ask you to hold your lawmakers accountable before you, or someone you love, is unnecessarily victimized by a criminal ICE could have removed from the country.”

Below are some examples of the risks posed by laws and policies restricting cooperation with ICE:

  • In September 2019, ICE officers arrested Jose Alejandro Lopez-Gutierrez, 56, in Colorado. Lopez-Gutierrez, a Mexican national, was arrested and booked into the Boulder County (CO) Jail after an arrest for felony sex assault on a child. ICE lodged a detainer on Lopez-Gutierrez in May 2019, but the Boulder County Jail released him from custody three days later without notifying ICE. He has previously been removed on one prior occasion.
  • In January 2019, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (NC) arrested Angel Diaz-Vera, 40, a Mexican national, for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). ICE lodged a detainer, but he was released from local custody. In June 2019, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office again arrested Diaz-Vera for two counts of assault on a female, assault by strangulation, assault with a deadly weapon, and DWI. He again was released from Mecklenburg County despite ICE issuing another detainer and remains at large.
  • In September 2017, Jose Ramirez-Soto, 43, of Mexico, was arrested and booked into King County Jail (Washington) for child molestation charges. In 2018, he was convicted on a sexual assault charge (4th degree). ICE lodged a detainer, but Ramirez-Soto was released. Ramirez-Soto was again arrested and booked in the King County Jail in July 2019 for harassment and threats to kill. ICE again lodged a detainer, but he was released and remains at-large. He has been previously removed from the United States twice.
  • In July 2019, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (OR) arrested Alejandro Maldonado-Hernandez, 30, of Mexico, for manslaughter, assault and reckless driving. ICE lodged a detainer with the Washington County Jail, but he was released in August 2019 and remains at-large.

While ICE conducts daily at-large arrests of criminal aliens, this week, officers also focused on people who had been released from uncooperative jurisdictions. Of the nearly 1,300 at-large arrests made this week, ICE officers apprehended 199 people who could have been arrested at a jail if the agency’s detainers had been honored. Of all the aliens taken into custody:

  • three (3) had convictions for murder or manslaughter;
  • 100 had convictions for sex crimes – nearly half (47) had convictions for sex crimes involving a minor;
  • 70 had convictions for drug crimes; and,
  • 328 had convictions for driving under the influence.

“It is past time to put aside all the political rhetoric and listen to the facts – and the fact is, people are being hurt and victimized every day because of jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with ICE,” said Acting Director Albence.

While making clear the consequences of uncooperative jurisdictions, Albence also commended law enforcement partners who do work with ICE because it is much safer for all involved if ICE officers take custody in the controlled environment of another law enforcement agency. Approximately 70 percent of the arrests ICE makes happen after ICE is notified about an alien being released from local jails or state prisons. In fiscal year 2019, ICE has lodged more than 160,000 detainers with local law enforcement agencies.

Acting Director Albence reiterated that ICE is sworn to uphold the federal immigration laws enacted by Congress and that the agency will carry out its sworn mission, with or without the cooperation of local law enforcement agencies.

“It is my sincere desire to work with local partners to whatever extent they are willing to work with this agency in what should be our shared goal to ensure public safety,” he said. “Uncooperative jurisdictions should be on notice that as long as criminal offenders are being released, they should get used to seeing a lot more ICE at-large enforcement activity in their communities.”

Nationally, approximately 90 percent of all people arrested by ICE during fiscal year 2019 either had a criminal conviction, a pending criminal charge, had illegally re-entered the United States after being previously removed (a federal felony), or were an immigration fugitive subject to a final order of removal.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 09/27/2019